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Team shows how the honey bee tolerates some synthetic pesticides
Date:7/20/2011

studies had shown that cytochrome P450s in honey bees play a key role in their tolerance of pyrethroid pesticides, such as tau-fluvalinate, which is used to kill mites in the hive. But no previous study had identified specific cytochrome P450s in bees or in other pollinating insects that contribute to pyrethroid tolerance, Berenbaum said.

In a series of experiments, the team identified three cytochrome P450s in the honey bee midgut that metabolize tau-fluvalinate. They discovered that these enzymes also detoxify coumaphos, a structurally different organophosphate pesticide that also is used to kill mites in bee hives.

"This suggests that these honey bee cytochrome P450s are not particularly specialized," Berenbaum said. "That raises the possibility that a nontoxic dose of tau-fluvalinate may become toxic if an enzyme that is principally involved in its detoxification is otherwise occupied with a different chemical."

The evidence also suggests that honey bees were "pre-adapted" to detoxify pyrethroid pesticides, Berenbaum said. Pyrethroids are similar in structure to naturally occurring defensive compounds, called pyrethrins, produced by some flowering plants. Honey bees have likely had a long history of contact with pyrethrins, which are found even in some flowers in the daisy family. It appears that the same enzymes that helped the honey bees detoxify the pyrethrins in nature may also help them tolerate this relatively new pesticide exposure.

The new findings should enhance efforts to develop mite control methods that are even less toxic to bees, Berenbaum said.


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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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