LC–MS/MS Quantification Reveals Ample Gut Uptake and Metabolization of Dietary Phytochemicals in Honey Bees

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Nanna Hjort Vidkjær, Inge S. Fomsgaard, and Per Kryger

Abstract: The honey bee pollen/nectar diet is rich in bioactive phytochemicals and recent studies have demonstrated the potential of phytochemicals to influence honey bee disease resistance. To unravel the role of dietary phytochemicals in honey bee health it is essential to understand phytochemical uptake, bioavailability, and metabolism but presently limited knowledge exists. With this study we aim to build a knowledge foundation. For 5 days, we continuously fed honey bees on eight individual phytochemicals and measured the concentrations in whole and dissected bees by HPLC-MS/MS. Ample phytochemical metabolization was observed, and only 6–30% of the consumed quantities were recovered. Clear differences in metabolization rates were evident, with atropine, aucubin, and triptolide displaying significantly slower metabolism. Phytochemical gut uptake was also demonstrated, and oral bioavailability was 4–31%, with the highest percentages observed for amygdalin, triptolide, and aucubin. We conclude that differences in the chemical properties and structure impact phytochemical uptake and metabolism.