Chinese and Japanese researchers recently discovered a protein in Varroa mites which sheds new light on the evolution of parasites – and could be a promising target to control the dangerous mite. Its main function lies in helping the parasite find its honey bee host.
The scientists originally explored plant-based agents to fight the Varroa mite, mostly tick repellents. They discovered that, under the influence of some repellents, the mites were unable to find their way into honeycombs with bee larvae to reproduce. The researchers showed that the active ingredients affected a protein which is located on the mite’s front legs.
TRP channels are a large family of proteins that are present in various organisms. In humans they play a role in the perception of taste or temperature. And insects need them to sense pain. However, TRP channels in parasites have not yet been studied and Vd-TRPA1 was the first to be characterized. The researchers assume they may play important roles in sensing the host environment and thus may be involved in mediating host-parasite interactions. “We found that several plant-derived tick repellents activated the TRPA1 channel in Varroa mites but had no effect on the TRPA channels in honey bees and fruit flies,” said senior study author and associate professor of biology Tatsuhiko Kadowaki. “We'd like to further understand the roles of TRP channels in host-parasite interactions and the underlying mechanisms of adaption for successful parasitism." In addition, his lab plans to find out if natural pesticides could specifically target TRP channels.
You can find the original paper here.