Characterization of viral siRNA populations in honey bee colony collapse disorder

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a special case of collapse of honey bee colonies, has resulted in significant losses for beekeepers. CCD-colonies show abundance of pathogens which suggests that they have a weakened immune system. Since honey bee viruses are major players in colony collapse and given the important role of viral RNA interference (RNAi) in combating viral infections we investigated if CCD-colonies elicit an RNAi response. Deep-sequencing analysis of samples from CCD-colonies from US and Israel revealed abundant small interfering RNAs (siRNA) of 21–22 nucleotides perfectly matching the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), Kashmir virus and Deformed wing virus genomes. Israeli colonies showed high titers of IAPV and a conserved RNAi-pattern of matching the viral genome. That was also observed in sample analysis from colonies experimentally infected with IAPV. Our results suggest that CCD-colonies set out a siRNA response that is specific against predominant viruses associated with colony losses.


Chejanovsky N, Ophir R,  Sharabi Schwager M, Slabezki Y, Grossman S, Cox-Foster D (2014) . Characterization of viral siRNA populations in honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Virology 454-455:176–183.