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Open Access Research

Localization of deformed wing virus (DWV) in the brains of the honeybee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus

Karan S Shah1, Elizabeth C Evans12 and Marie C Pizzorno13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA

2 Animal Behavior Program, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA

3 Cell Biology and Biochemistry Program, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA

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Virology Journal 2009, 6:182  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-6-182

Published: 30 October 2009



Deformed wing virus (DWV) is a positive-strand RNA virus that infects European honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) and has been isolated from the brains of aggressive bees in Japan. DWV is known to be transmitted both vertically and horizontally between bees in a colony and can lead to both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections in bees. In environmentally stressful conditions, DWV can contribute to the demise of a honeybee colony. The purpose of the current study is to identify regions within the brains of honeybees where DWV replicates using in-situ hybridization.


In-situ hybridizations were conducted with both sense and antisense probes on the brains of honeybees that were positive for DWV as measured by real-time RT-PCR. The visual neuropils demonstrated detectable levels of the DWV positive-strand genome. The mushroom bodies and antenna lobe neuropils also showed the presence of the viral genome. Weaker staining with the sense probe in the same regions demonstrates that the antigenome is also present and that the virus is actively replicating in these regions of the brain.


These results demonstrate that in bees infected with DWV the virus is replicating in critical regions of the brain, including the neuropils responsible for vision and olfaction. Therefore DWV infection of the brain could adversely affect critical sensory functions and alter normal bee behavior.