Submitted to: Archives of Virology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 17, 2000
Publication Date: October 1, 2000
Citation: Evans, J.D., Hung, A.C. 2000. Molecular phylogenetics and the classification of honey bee viruses. Archives of Virology. 145:2015-2026.
Interpretive Summary: The honey bee is an important beneficial insect that is currently threatened by a variety of pests and pathogens. Among these, honey bee viruses are most difficult to assess. Viruses have been shown to cause bee mortality experimentally, but their impact on bee health in hives and apiaries is poorly understood. A major difficulty in assessing the impact of honey bee viruses comes from the fact that current methods often fail to accurately identify viruses from bee samples. New genetic techniques for characterizing honey bee viruses are now available to do this. To speed the development of these genetic screens, we determined the genetic relationships among several honey bee viruses. The results suggest that developing genetic screens for the range of honey bee viruses will be difficult, since these screens must be tailored to several bee virus groups independently. On the positive side, the results will lead to new avenues of research into the control of bee viruses, since many close relatives of honey bee viruses are well-studied members from other insect and plant virus groups. This information will help structure bordercontrol policies aimed at restricting the spread dangerous viruses, and will help us to develop strategies that beekeepers can use to control viral diseases, decreasing the impact of viruses on the billion dollar honey bee pollination industry.
Techniques for characterizing RNA viruses based on genetic sequence data often are used to compliment field and laboratory studies. Using these sequences in a phylogenetic context can speed the development of viral diagnostic assays and control methods. We present the phylogenetic relationships of several positive-strand RNA viruses found in honey bees, along with 15 additional plant and animal psRNA viruses. The honey bee viruses are broadly distributed among the psRNA viruses, suggesting either that the ability to infect honey bees has evolved multiply, or that these viruses are generalistic in their abilities to infect hosts. At least one major change in gene order occurred among the honey bee viruses, based on their phylogenetic affiliations. At the amino-acid level, the bee viruses differed by 15-28% at three conserved genes. Bee viruses differed by greater than 50% at the RNA level, indicating that RNA-based methods for virus identification must be tailored to at least three different virus clades independently.