The global decline of bee populations has several factors, including pathogens, which need overcome the insect defenses such as the physical barriers, the body cuticle and peritrophic matrix (primary defenses), as well as the secondary defenses with antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and the enzyme lysozyme. The regulation of immune defenses according to the infection risks raises questions about the immunity of social bees due to their exposition to different pathogens pressures during the adult lifespan and tasks performed. This study evaluated the primary (body cuticle melanization, peritrophic matrix and cpr14 expression) and secondary (AMPs and lysozyme expression) defenses of the honeybee Apis mellifera workers according to the age and tasks. The expression of malvolio was used to detect precocious forage tasks outside the colony. Forager workers have higher amount of cuticular melanization in the body cuticle than nurse, but not when the age effect is retired, indicating the gradual acquisition of this compound in the integument of adult bees. The relative value of chitin in the peritrophic matrix and cpr14 mRNA are similar in all bees evaluated, suggesting that these components of primary defenses do not change according to the task and age. Differential expression of genes for AMPs in workers performing different tasks, within the same age group, indicates that the behavior stimulates expression of genes related to secondary immune defense. The expression of malvolio gene, accelerating the change in workers behavior, and those related to immune defense suggest the investment in secondary defense mechanisms when the primary defense of the body cuticle is not yet completed.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Volume 257, January 2022,