How Bees Naturally Vaccinate Their Babies

Phys.org    July 31, 2015

When a bee is born, they are already "vaccinated" against some diseases found in their environment. This immune system priming is passed along to the larvae from the queen bee via a blood protein called vitellogenin. Credit: Christofer BangWhen it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice—they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee  protection against disease.

The findings appear today in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

"The process by which  transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it's as simple as eating," said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU's School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. "Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off."

Co-author Dalial Freitak, a postdoctoral researcher with University of Helsinki adds: "I have been working on bee immune priming since the start of my doctoral studies. Now almost 10 years later, I feel like I've solved an important part of the puzzle. It's a wonderful and very rewarding feeling!"

HOW IT WORKS

In a honey bee colony, the queen...

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-07-bees-naturally-vaccinate-babies.html#jCp