Interplay Between Selenium, Selenoprotein Genes, and Oxidative Stress in Honey Bee Apis mellifera L.

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Biological Sciences


The honey bee, Apis mellifera L., is a major pollinator insect that lacks novel “selenoprotein genes”, rendering it susceptible to elevated levels of Selenium (Se) occurring naturally in the environment. We investigated the effects of two inorganic forms of Se on biological traits, oxidative stress, and gene regulation. Using bioassay arenas in the laboratory, one-day old sister bees were fed ad libitum 4 different concentrations of selenate and selenite, two common inorganic forms of Se. The transcription levels of 4 honey bee antioxidant genes were evaluated, and three putative selenoprotein-like genes (SELENOT, SELENOK, SELENOF) were characterized as well as Sbp2, a Selenium binding protein required for the translation of selenoproteins mRNA. Oxidative stress and Se residues were subsequently quantified in honey bee bodies throughout the experiment.

Se induced higher oxidative stress in treated honey bees leading to a significantly elevated protein carbonyl content, particularly at the highest studied concentrations. Early upregulations of Spb2 and MsrA were identified at day 2 of the treatment while all genes except SELENOT were upregulated substantially at day 8 to alleviate the Se-induced oxidative stress levels. We determined that doses between 60 and 600 mg.Se.L−1 were acutely toxic to bees (−1 led to much lower mortality (7–16)%. Furthermore, when fed ad libitum, Se residue data indicated that bees tolerated accumulation up to 0.12 µg Se bee−1 for at least 8 days with a Se LC50 of ∼6 mg/L, a field realistic concentration found in pollen of certain plants in a high Se soil environment.

Publication Title

Journal of Insect Physiology



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