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Investigating the viral ecology of global bee communities with high-throughput metagenomics

By David A Galbraith, Zachary L Fuller, Axel Brockmann, Maryann Frazier, Mary W Gikungu, Karen M Kapheim, Jeffrey T Kerby, Sarah D Kocher, Oleksiy Losyev, Elliud Muli, Harland M Patch, Joyce M Sakamoto, Scott Stanley, Anthony D Vaudo, Christina M Grozinger

Posted 04 Jan 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/243139 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-27164-z)

Bee viral ecology is a fascinating emerging area of research: viruses exert a range of effects on their hosts, exacerbate the impacts of other environmental stressors, and, importantly, are readily shared across multiple bee species in a community. However, our understanding of bee viral communities is limited, as it is primarily derived from studies of North American and European Apis mellifera populations. Here, we examined viruses in populations of A. mellifera and 11 other bee species from 9 countries, across 5 continents and Oceania. We developed a novel pipeline to rapidly, inexpensively, and robustly screen for bee viruses. This pipeline includes purification of encapsulated RNA/DNA viruses, sequence-independent amplification, high throughput sequencing, integrated assembly of contigs, and filtering to identify contigs specifically corresponding to viral sequences. We identified sequences corresponding to (+)ssRNA, (-)ssRNA, dsRNA, and ssDNA viruses. Overall, we found 127 contigs corresponding to novel viruses (i.e. previously not observed in bees), with 29 represented by >0.1% of the reads in a given sample. These viruses and viral families were distributed across multiple regions and species. This study provides a robust pipeline for metagenomics analysis of viruses, and greatly expands our understanding of the diversity of viruses found in bee communities.

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