, Volume 21, Issue 8, pp 2214–2221 | Cite as

Does transgenic Cry1Ac + CpTI cotton pollen affect hypopharyngeal gland development and midgut proteolytic enzyme activity in the honey bee Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera, Apidae)?

  • Peng Han
  • Chang-Ying NiuEmail author
  • Antonio Biondi
  • Nicolas Desneux


The transgenic Cry1Ac (Bt toxin) + CpTI (Cowpea Trypsin Inhibitor) cotton cultivar CCRI41 is increasingly used in China and potential side effects on the honey bee Apis mellifera L. have been documented recently. Two studies have assessed potential lethal and sublethal effects in young bees fed with CCRI41 cotton pollen but no effect was observed on learning capacities, although lower feeding activity in exposed honey bees was noted (antifeedant effect). The present study aimed at providing further insights into potential side effects of CCRI41 cotton on honey bees. Emerging honey bees were exposed to different pollen diets using no-choice feeding protocols (chronic exposure) in controlled laboratory conditions and we aimed at documenting potential mechanisms underneath the CCRI41 antifeedant effect previously reported. Activity of midgut proteolytic enzyme of young adult honey bees fed on CCRI41 cotton pollen were not significantly affected, i.e. previously observed antifeedant effect was not linked to disturbed activity of the proteolytic enzymes in bees’ midgut. Hypopharyngeal gland development was assessed by quantifying total extractable proteins from the glands. Results suggested that CCRI41 cotton pollen carries no risk to hypopharyngeal gland development of young adult honey bees. In the two bioassays, honey bees exposed to 1 % soybean trypsin inhibitor were used as positive controls for both midgut proteolytic enzymes and hypopharyngeal gland proteins quantification, and bees exposed to 48 ppb (part per billion) (i.e. 48 ng g−1) imidacloprid were used as controls for exposure to a sublethal concentration of toxic product. The results show that the previously reported antifeedant effect of CCRI41 cotton pollen on honey bees is not linked to effects on their midgut proteolytic enzymes or on the development of their hypopharyngeal glands. The results of the study are discussed in the framework of risk assessment of transgenic crops on honey bees.


Hypopharyngeal gland Midgut enzymes Risk assessment Sublethal effects Imidacloprid Transgenic cotton pollen 



We are grateful to Xiaoxia Dong, Shifeng Yu and Haixia Yang for technical help for the dissection works on honey bees during the study, and to JB Yang for technical assistance for honey bee rearing. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31071690). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peng Han
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chang-Ying Niu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Antonio Biondi
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nicolas Desneux
    • 2
  1. 1.Hubei Key Laboratory of Utilization of Insect Resources and Sustainable Control of Pests, College of Plant Science & TechnologyHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanChina
  2. 2.French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA)Sophia-AntipolisFrance
  3. 3.Department of Agri-food and Environmental Systems ManagementUniversity of CataniaCataniaItaly

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