Starting in 2003, numerous studies using culture-independent methodologies to characterize the gut microbiota of honey bees have retrieved a consistent and distinctive set of eight bacterial species, based on near identity of the 16S rRNA gene sequences. A recent study [Mattila HR, Rios D, Walker-Sperling VE, Roeselers G, Newton ILG (2012) Characterization of the active microbiotas associated with honey bees reveals healthier and broader communities when colonies are genetically diverse. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32962], using pyrosequencing of the V1-V2 hypervariable region of the 16S rRNA gene, reported finding entirely novel bacterial species in honey bee guts, and used taxonomic assignments from these reads to predict metabolic activities based on known metabolisms of cultivable species. To better understand this discrepancy, we analyzed the Mattila et al. pyrotag dataset. In contrast to the conclusions of Mattila et al., we found that the large majority of pyrotag sequences belonged to clusters for which representative sequences were identical to sequences from previously identified core species of the bee microbiota. On average, they represent 95% of the bacteria in each worker bee in the Mattila et al. dataset, a slightly lower value than that found in other studies. Some colonies contain small proportions of other bacteria, mostly species of Enterobacteriaceae. Reanalysis of the Mattila et al. dataset also did not support a relationship between abundances of Bifidobacterium and of putative pathogens or a significant difference in gut communities between colonies from queens that were singly or multiply mated. Additionally, consistent with previous studies, the dataset supports the occurrence of considerable strain variation within core species, even within single colonies. The roles of these bacteria within bees, or the implications of the strain variation, are not yet clear.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)