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Global Transcriptomic Effects of Environmentally Relevant Concentrations of the Neonicotinoids Clothianidin, Imidacloprid, and Thiamethoxam in the Brain of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)

Verena Christen, Melanie Schirrmann, Juerg E. Frey, Karl Fent
Environmental science & technology 2018 v.52 no.13 pp. 7534-7544
Apis mellifera, adverse effects, alpha-amylase, brain, carbohydrate metabolism, clothianidin, environmental science, gene ontology, genes, glucose, imidacloprid, lipid metabolism, nucleotidase, pentose phosphate cycle, proteins, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, royal jelly, sequence analysis, starch, sucrose, sulfur, thiamethoxam, transcriptomics, worker honey bees
Neonicotinoids are implicated in the decline of honey bees, but the molecular basis underlying adverse effects is poorly known. Here we describe global transcriptomic profiles in the brain of honey bee workers exposed for 48 h at one environmentally realistic and one sublethal concentration of 0.3 and 3.0 ng/bee clothianidin and imidacloprid, respectively, and 0.1 and 1.0 ng/bee thiamethoxam (1–30 ng/mL sucrose solution) by high-throughput RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq). All neonicotinoids led to significant alteration (mainly down-regulation) of gene expression, generally with a concentration-dependent effect. Among many others, genes related to metabolism and detoxification were differently expressed. Gene ontology (GO) enrichment analysis of biological processes revealed catabolic carbohydrate metabolism (regulation of enzyme activities such as amylase), lipid metabolism, and transport mechanisms as shared terms between all neonicotinoids at high concentrations. KEGG pathway analysis indicated that at least two neonicotinoids induced changes in expression of various metabolic pathways: pentose phosphate pathways, starch and sucrose metabolism, and sulfur metabolism, in which glucose 1-dehydrogenase and alpha-amylase were down-regulated and 3′(2′), 5′-bisphosphate nucleotidase was up-regulated. RT-qPCR analysis confirmed the down-regulation of major royal jelly proteins, hbg3, and cyp9e2 found by RNA-seq. Our study highlights the comparative molecular effects of neonicotinoid exposure to bees. Further studies should link these effects with physiological outcomes for a better understanding of effects of neonicotinoids.