Varroa destructor mites express strong avoidance of the Apis cerana worker brood in the field. The molecular mechanism for this phenomenon remains unknown. We identified a Varroa toxic protein (VTP), which exhibited toxic activity toward A. cerana worker larvae, in the saliva of these mites, and expressed VTP in an Escherichia coli system. We further demonstrated that recombinant VTP killed A. cerana worker larvae and pupae in the absence of deformed-wing virus (DWV) but was not toxic to A. cerana worker adults and drones. The recombinant VTP was safe for A. mellifera individuals, but resulted in elevated DWV titers and the subsequent development of deformed-wing adults. RNAi-mediated suppression of vtp gene expression in the mites partially protected A. cerana larvae. We propose a modified mechanism for Varroa mite avoidance of worker brood, due to mutual destruction stress, including the worker larvae blocking Varroa mite reproduction and Varroa mites killing worker larvae by the saliva toxin. The discovery of VTP should provide a better understanding of Varroa pathogenesis, facilitate host-parasite mechanism research and allow the development of effective methods to control these harmful mites.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 21, 2018
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