BeeYeast: Yeast Engineering to Fight Bee Viral Infections

Honey bees play a crucial role as pollinators that is essential for preserving biodiversity. They also yield valuable products such as honey and beeswax, integral to human livelihoods. Unfortunately, honey bee populations are globally declining, influenced by factors like pathogens, climate shifts, and excessive pesticide use. Among these challenges, the Deformed wing virus (DWV), primarily transmitted by mites, is particularly widespread and detrimental, causing the death of millions of bees annually.
The Estonia-TUIT team aims to suppress viral protein expression within bee cells by inducing RNA interference response. Our strategy involves genetically modified yeast cells producing short interfering RNAs, which inhibit DWV gene expression. To deliver these siRNAs into bee cells, we intend to either feed our modified yeast to bees or directly inject siRNA-containing extracts into honeycombs. This approach aims to boost the bee's inherent RNA interference immune response, protecting them from the virus's harmful effects.