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Abscisic acid enhances the immune response in Apis mellifera and contributes to the colony fitness

Negri, Pedro, Maggi, Matias D., Ramirez, Leonor, De Feudis, Leonardo, Szwarski, Nicolás, Quintana, Silvina, Eguaras, Marin J., Lamattina, Lorenzo
Apidologie 2015 v.46 no.4 pp. 542-557
Apis mellifera, abscisic acid, adults, amino acids, apiculture, carbohydrates, diet, field experimentation, hemocytes, honey, honey bees, immune response, immune system, larvae, nectar, nutritive value, pesticide resistance, pollination, tissue repair, winter
The primary food of adult honey bees (Apis mellifera) is honey prepared by bees from nectar, provided by plants in order to stimulate the bee’s pollination service. Nectar consists of carbohydrates, amino acids and water, as well as other minor compounds whose proportion varies among plant species and whose biological implications in the honey bee physiology require intense research. Several environmental stressors are causing the decline of bee colonies, and thereby, we tried to connect the nutritional quality of bee’s diet with the strength of the bee’s immune system. The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) is present in nectar, honey and adult honey bees. It has been demonstrated that ABA stimulates innate immune defences in animal cells. However, the influence of ABA on A. mellifera’s health and fitness is unknown. Here, we show that honey bees fed with an ABA supplement in field experiments resulted in (i) the appearance of ABA in larvae and adult bees, (ii) enhanced haemocyte response to non-self recognition, (iii) improved wound healing and granulocyte and plasmatocyte activation and (iv) maximum adult bee population after the winter and increased pesticide tolerance. The results indicate that the naturally occurring compound ABA has a positive influence in honey bee immunity. ABA emerges as a potent booster of immune defence in A. mellifera and may be useful in addressing the colony losses threatening apiculture and pollination service worldwide.