Epigenetics of neonicotinoids in an important insect pollinator

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Genetics


Neonicotinoids are a popular class of insecticides that are favoured due to their efficiency in killing insects whilst having low toxicity towards vertebrates. Unfortunately, neonicotinoid insecticides have been implicated in the decline of bees. These insecticides are neuroactive and target nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) which disrupts the function of insect neurons, resulting in paralysis and death. Additionally, sublethal doses in both honeybees and bumblebees has been found to cause behavioural changes such as impaired foraging, navigation, memory and movement. Due to the wide range of effects it has been suggested that neonicotinoids have multiple modes of action beyond their intended neurotransmission target. Gene expression differences due to neonicotinoid exposure has been found in honeybee and bumblebee across developmental stages and castes. However, looking at this from a single cell approach would provide a unique means to generate a brain-wide view of gene expression changes at a cellular resolution. This would enable us to further discover what genes and pathways are altered in bumblebee workers in response to neonicotinoids.
Recently, single cell RNA-seq has emerged as a powerful technique to investigate high resolution transcriptome differences, cellular heterogeneity and cellular markers. scRNA-Seq would greatly improve our understanding of the mechanisms affected by exposure to neonicotinoids and identify cell-specific responses. This in turn would aid our understanding of the effect of pesticides on target pest species, identify important potential biomarkers of pesticide toxicity and ultimately help to inform future discussion on legislation controlling neonicotinoid use.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 31/03/2024
2098605 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2018 30/12/2022 Kristiana Brink