Cadmium and Selenate Exposure Affects the Honey Bee Microbiome and Metabolome, and Bee-Associated Bacteria Show Potential for Bioaccumulation.

Author(s) Rothman, J.A.; Leger, L.; Kirkwood, J.S.; McFrederick, Q.S.
Journal Appl Environ Microbiol
Date Published 2019 11 01

Honey bees are important insect pollinators used heavily in agriculture and can be found in diverse environments. Bees may encounter toxicants such as cadmium and selenate by foraging on plants growing in contaminated areas, which can result in negative health effects. Honey bees are known to have a simple and consistent microbiome that conveys many benefits to the host, and toxicant exposure may impact this symbiotic microbial community. We used 16S rRNA gene sequencing to assay the effects that sublethal cadmium and selenate treatments had over 7 days and found that both treatments significantly but subtly altered the composition of the bee microbiome. Next, we exposed bees to cadmium and selenate and then used untargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) metabolomics to show that chemical exposure changed the bees' metabolite profiles and that compounds which may be involved in detoxification, proteolysis, and lipolysis were more abundant in treatments. Finally, we exposed several strains of bee-associated bacteria in liquid culture and found that each strain removed cadmium from its medium but that only Firm-5 microbes assimilated selenate, indicating the possibility that these microbes may reduce the metal and metalloid burden on their host. Overall, our report shows that metal and metalloid exposure can affect the honey bee microbiome and metabolome and that strains of bee-associated bacteria can bioaccumulate these toxicants. Bees are important insect pollinators that may encounter environmental pollution when foraging upon plants grown in contaminated areas. Despite the pervasiveness of pollution, little is known about the effects of these toxicants on honey bee metabolism and their symbiotic microbiomes. Here, we investigated the impact of selenate and cadmium exposure on the gut microbiome and metabolome of honey bees. We found that exposure to these chemicals subtly altered the overall composition of the bees' microbiome and metabolome and that exposure to toxicants may negatively impact both host and microbe. As the microbiome of animals can reduce mortality upon metal or metalloid challenge, we grew bee-associated bacteria in media spiked with selenate or cadmium. We show that some bacteria can remove these toxicants from their media and suggest that bacteria may reduce metal burden in their hosts.

DOI 10.1128/AEM.01411-19
ISSN 1098-5336
Citation Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019;85(21).

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