Significant compositional and functional variation reveals the patterns of gut microbiota evolution among the widespread Asian honeybee populations

Qinzhi Su, Min Tang, Jiahui Hu, Junbo Tang, Xue Zhang, Xingan Li, Qingsheng Niu, Xuguo Zhou, Shiqi Luo, Xin Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The gut microbiome is a crucial element that facilitates a host’s adaptation to a changing environment. Compared to the western honeybee Apis mellifera, the Asian honeybee, Apis cerana populations across its natural range remain mostly semi-feral and are less affected by bee management, which provides a good system to investigate how gut microbiota evolve under environmental heterogeneity on large geographic scales. We compared and analyzed the gut microbiomes of 99 Asian honeybees, from genetically diverged populations covering 13 provinces across China. Bacterial composition varied significantly across populations at phylotype, sequence-discrete population (SDP), and strain levels, but with extensive overlaps, indicating that the diversity of microbial community among A. cerana populations is driven by nestedness. Pollen diets were significantly correlated with both the composition and function of the gut microbiome. Core bacteria, Gilliamella and Lactobacillus Firm-5, showed antagonistic turnovers and contributed to the enrichment in carbohydrate transport and metabolism. By feeding and inoculation bioassays, we confirmed that the variations in pollen polysaccharide composition contributed to the trade-off of these core bacteria. Progressive change, i.e., nestedness, is the foundation of gut microbiome evolution among the Asian honeybee. Such a transition during the co-diversification of gut microbiomes is affected by environmental factors, diets in general, and pollen polysaccharides in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Article number934459
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Sep 2 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Beijing Natural Science Foundation (No. 5204035) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 32000343) to SL, the Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2018FY100403), National Special Support Program for High-level Talents (Ten-Thousand Talents Program), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31772493), and funding from the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Food Nutrition and Human Health through China Agricultural University grant to XiZ, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31470123) to XL, and the 2115 Talent Development Program of China Agricultural University through XiZ.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Su, Tang, Hu, Tang, Zhang, Li, Niu, Zhou, Luo and Zhou.


  • Asian honeybee
  • gut microbiota
  • nectar
  • pollen
  • population variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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