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Posts Tagged: Michelle Flenniken

Honey Bees and Malaria

You don't usually see "honey bees" and "malaria" in the same sentence.

That won't be the case, though, when Joseph DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, comes to the UC Davis campus to lecture on Monday, Jan. 9.

His presentation, "A Seminar in Two Acts: Honey Bees and Malaria,"  is from 10 to 11 a.m. in the main auditorium (Room 2005) of the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility.

The seminar, open to all interested persons, is sponsored by the Biological Networks Focus Group of the Genome Center. Host is Oliver Fiehn, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Genome Center.

DeRisi, a molecular biologist and biochemist, was named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant (also known as "the genius award") in 2004. In 2008, DeRisi won the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment. Among his many accomplishments: he designed and programmed a groundbreaking tool for finding (and fighting) viruses -- the ViroChip, a DNA microarray that test for the presence of all known viruses in one step.

The DeRisi lab drew international attention last year with publications in Public Library of Science journals.

Malaria:
Chemical Rescue of Malaria Parasites Lacking an Apicoplast Defines Organelle Function in Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum (published in PLoS Biology, August 2011)

Honey Bees:
Temporal Analysis of the Honey Bee Microbiome Reveals Four Novel Viruses and Seasonal Prevalence of Known Viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia (published in PLoS One, June, 2011)

Among those working on the honey bee research and co-authoring the PLoS One paper was insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, a postdoctoral fellow in the Raul Andino lab at UC San Francisco and the recipient of the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellowship in Honey Bee Biology at UC Davis.

Among DeRisi's collaborators  on malaria research is UC Davis molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and an advisor in the Entomology Graduate Program.

DeRisi, who received his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1999 from Stanford University, does amazing work.

He's a genius, to be sure.

Check out these links:
Joseph DeRisi Lab, UC San Francisco
Joe DeRisi: Biochemist (featured in TED ("Technology, Entertainment, Design" is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.)
Conversation with Joe DeRisi (New York Times)
Solving Medical Mysteries (YouTube)
Hunting the Next Killer Virus (YouTube)
Joseph DeRisi: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Joseph DeRisi in Wikipedia

A honey bee heads toward a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee heads toward a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee heads toward a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. (Photo by Anthony Cornel, UC Davis)
The malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. (Photo by Anthony Cornel, UC Davis)

The malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. (Photo by Anthony Cornel, UC Davis)

Posted on Friday, January 6, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Honey Bees Still in Trouble

Honey bees are still in trouble.

University of California scientists hammered home that point tonight during the PBS NewsHour program on the colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the declining bee population.

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology told Spencer Michels of the PBS NewsHOur that "We really don't seem to have accomplished a whole lot (since CCD surfaced five years ago), because we're still losing, on an average, approximately 30 percent or more of our colonies each year. And that's higher than -- than it used to be. Only 25 percent of the beekeepers seem to have this CCD problem over and over and over. The other 75 percent have their fingers crossed and say, 'I don't know what this is, but it's not happening to me.'"

CCD is indeed frustrating, agreed Mussen, beekeeper-researcher Randy Oliver of Grass Valley, and UC San Francisco researchers Joseph DeRisi, Michelle Flenniken and Charles Runkel.

Flenniken, a postdoctoral fellow in the Raul Andino lab at UCSF and the recipient of the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellowship in Honey Bee Biology at UC Davis, was among the team of scientists who recently discovered four new bee viruses, a discovery that may help unlock the secrets of why the bee population is declining.

The team found the new viruses while examining viruses and microbes in healthy commercially managed honey bee colonies over a 10-month period.

"Honey bee colonies, kind of like human populations, are exposed to a number of viruses and pathogens throughout the whole -- the entire course of the year," Flenniken told Michels. "So what this study provides us is a normal, healthy colony baseline of the ebb and flow of the microbes associated with that colony throughout the course of the year."

Oliver, who maintains 1000 hives and who has dealt with CCD, pointed out that CCD is resulting in "new science, new interest and new researchers" studying the mysterious malady.

As scientists delve in the mysteries of what's ailing the bees, they're bound to learn what's causing it. Meanwhile, it's good to see a national news program exploring this topic.

(Read PBS NewsHour transcript. Read more about the declining bee population on Spencer Michels' blog.)

Beekeepers Bill Cervenka (left) of Half Moon Bay and Randy Oliver of Grass Valley check out a frame in Healdsburg during a bee conference.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeepers Bill Cervenka (left) of Half Moon Bay and Randy Oliver of Grass Valley check out a frame in Healdsburg during a bee conference.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

eekeepers Bill Cervenka (left) of Half Moon Bay and Randy Oliver of Grass Valley check out a frame in Healdsburg during a bee conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Not One, But Four New Honey Bee Viruses!

Exciting news! 

Scientists based at the University of California, San Francisco, have discovered four new honey bee viruses.

Their research, published today in the international Public Library of Science (PLoS) journal, documents what they found in a 10-month study of healthy, commerically managed honey bee colonies.

One virus, the newly named Lake Sinai virus strain 2 (LSV2), predominated.  “In fact, we found more than 1 billion LSV2 viral genomes (an approximation of actual viruses) per honey bee in some of the colonies,” said insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, a postdoctoral fellow in the Raul Andino lab at UC San Francisco and the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow in Honey Bee Biology at UC Davis.

The virus strain is one of two Lake Sinai strains found among the 431 samples the scientists collected. Both replicate in honey bees, Flenniken said.

Flenniken is part of a seven-member team from the Raul Andino and Joseph DeRisi labs at UC San Francisco that today published “Temporal Analysis of the Honey Bee Microbiome Reveals Four Novel Viruses and Seasonal Prevalence of Known Viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia" in PLOS.

The research, Flenniken said, provides “a baseline for future epidemiological studies aimed at understanding current and emerging threats to honey bees and determining the causes of the declining bee population."

That it does.

"Michelle Flenniken is particularly adroit at explaining these findings and techniques to academic audiences and the general public," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. Mussen was not involved with the research.

Knowing that numerous viruses, microbes and mites threaten honey bee colony health, the researchers set out to answer the question: “What is normal microbial flora (virus, bacteria, fungi) associated with honey bee colonies over the course of a year?”

They used cutting-edge technology to document the seasonal incidence and abundance of previously characterized viruses. Their broad-scale analysis incorporated a suite of molecular tools: custom microarray, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), quantitative PCR (qPCR) and deep sequencing. Their work enabled rapid detection of the presence—or absence—of all previously identified honey bee pathogens and facilitated the detection of the four novel pathogens.

The research was primarily funded by Project Apis m., (PAm), a Chico-based non-profit organization established in 2006 by beekeepers and orchardists to fund honey bee research on managed colonies. PAm, headed by executive director Christi Heintz,  brings together representatives of the American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, the National Honey Board, California State Beekeepers Association, and California almond farmers.

This research is all the buzz among beekeepers today, as well it should be--or "bee." (Read more about their work and see photos on the UC San Francisco website and on the UC Davis website.)

Honey bee nectaring on lavender. A UCSF team just discovered four new honey bee viruses. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee nectaring on lavender. A UCSF team just discovered four new honey bee viruses. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee nectaring on lavender. A UCSF team just discovered four new honey bee viruses. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, the Haagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis, explains a bee colony. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, the Haagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis, explains a bee colony. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, the Haagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis, explains a bee colony. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Trying to Ward Off the Threats

Michelle Flenniken
When we think about honey bees, we ought to think about the immune system.

Understanding the honey bee’s immune system is crucial to battling the declining honey bee population, says University of California insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken.

Speaking to 100 fellow researchers at the Honey Bee Genomics and Biology Conference, held recently in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, Flenniken said that if a bee can develop better antiviral immune responses, it’s better able to fight its foes.

"Our work is focused on understanding the natural mechanisms of antiviral immunity in honey bees--or how a honey bees fights off viral infections,” she told the researchers. “We are examining these pathways at the molecular level using gene expression microarrays.”

Flenniken, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Davis and a virologist in the Raul Andino lab, Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UC San Francisco, studies honey bee viruses and the role of RNA interference (RNAi) in the antiviral immune responses. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information of viruses.  RNAi is a mechanism that inhibits gene expression.

RNAi can be used as an antiviral strategy in honey bees, Flenniken believes.  Her research involves  limiting virus production in the bees by priming their RNAi machinery with viral specific double-stranded RNA.

For the past several years, she has been analyzing viruses present in the hives of area beekeepers.

The findings she reported at the conference are mentioned in the May 10th edition of the international journal, Nature.  Flenniken “presented evidence that in honey bees (double-stranded RNA) can trigger a general immune response that might ward off a variety of threats,” wrote Nature author Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib.

We look forward to seeing more of Flenniken's work.

Michelle Flenniken at an apiary. (Photo by Kim Fondrk)
Michelle Flenniken at an apiary. (Photo by Kim Fondrk)

Michelle Flenniken at an apiary. (Photo by Kim Fondrk)

Posted on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 8:13 PM
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