U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska




Date of this Version



Arch.InsectBiochem.Physiol.2017;96:e21406. https://doi.org/10.1002/arch.21406


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Carbohydrate-active enzymes play an important role in the honey bee (Apis mellifera) due to its dietary specialization on plant-based nutrition. Secretory glycoside hydrolases (GHs) produced in worker head glands aid in the processing of floral nectar into honey and are expressed in accordance with the age-based division of labor. Pollen utilization by the honey bee has been investigated in considerable detail, but little is known about the metabolic fate of indigestible carbohydrates and glycosides in pollen biomass. Here, we demonstrate that pollen consumption stimulates the hydrolysis of sugars that are toxic to the bee (xylose, arabinose, mannose). GHs produced in the head accumulate in the midgut and persist in the hindgut that harbors a core microbial community composed of approximately 108 bacterial cells. Pollen consumption significantly impacted total and specific bacterial abundance in the digestive tract. Bacterial isolates representing major fermentative gut phylotypes exhibited primarily membrane-bound GH activities that may function in tandem with soluble host enzymes retained in the hindgut. Additionally, we found that plant-originating 𝛽-galactosidase activity in pollen may be sufficient, in some cases, for probable physiological activity in the gut. These findings emphasize the potential relative contributions of host, bacteria, and pollen enzyme activities to carbohydrate break- down, which may be tied to gut microbiome dynamics and associated host nutrition.