Genetic variants associated with honey bee resistance against Deformed wing virus and their use in CRISPR-based marker assisted selection to improve resilience of bees

01 January 2021 → 31 December 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Animal genetics
    • Invertebrate biology
  • Agricultural and food sciences
    • Agricultural animal breeding and biotechnology
disease resistance marker-assisted selection genotype-environment interaction apiculture honey bees CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing
Project description

Honey bees are under pressure due to abnormal high death rates, especially during the winter. The infestation by the Varroa destructor mite and the viruses that this ectoparasite transmits are generally seen as the most important biotic causes. The control of these mite-transmitted viruses is almost exclusively done in an indirect way, by limiting the severity of the mite infestation. We recently succeeded in the selection towards virus resistant honey bee colonies, based on a novel trait that renders honey bee drone brood eggs free of virus infections. This so-called ‘suppressed in ovo virus infection’ (SOV) showed moderate heritabilities for the load of Deformed wing virus (h2 = 0.22). The present project will further elaborate this SOV trait by mapping its genetic predisposition in bees. Therefore we will cross resistant and sensitive strains, test the phenotype in the F2 drone brood (when the parental alleles are segregated in the haploid genome), and perform whole exome sequencing and elastic-net regression. Further, we will test whether resistant bees can also be created by gene-editing using the CRISPR-technology. In concert with this, we will perform a social sciences study to determine the extent to which there is societal support to implement this technology in the honey bee's breeding programs. Finally, we will test whether bees with the desired genetic profile maintain the SOV trait when they are moved to another environment?