Honey bees have suffered dramatic losses in recent years, largely due to multiple stressors underpinned by poor nutrition . Nutritional stress especially harms larvae, who mature into workers unable to meet the needs of their colony . In this study, we characterize the metabolic capabilities of a honey bee larvae-associated bacterium, Bombella apis (formerly Parasaccharibacter apium), and its effects on the nutritional resilience of larvae. We found that B. apis is the only bacterium associated with larvae that can withstand the antimicrobial larval diet. Further, we found that B. apis can synthesize all essential amino acids and significantly alters the amino acid content of synthetic larval diet, largely by supplying the essential amino acid lysine. Analyses of gene gain/loss across the phylogeny suggest that four amino acid transporters were gained in recent B. apis ancestors. In addition, the transporter LysE is conserved across all sequenced strains of B. apis. Finally, we tested the impact of B. apis on developing honey bee larvae subjected to nutritional stress and found that larvae supplemented with B. apis are bolstered against mass reduction despite limited nutrition. Together, these data suggest a novel role of B. apis as a nutritional mutualist of honey bee larvae.
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The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the Dryad repository: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n5tb2rbz1.
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We thank the IU Mass Spectrometry Facility and the graduate and undergraduate students in the Newton lab who helped with honey bee husbandry. This work was financially supported by a Project Apis m. research grant and an NSF Collaborative Research grant (2005306). Components of Figs. 1 and 2 were created with BioRender.com.
AJP and ILGN are cofounders of VitaliBee.
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Parish, A.J., Rice, D.W., Tanquary, V.M. et al. Honey bee symbiont buffers larvae against nutritional stress and supplements lysine. ISME J (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-022-01268-x