A cell culture model forNosema ceranaeandNosema apisallows new insights into the life cycle of these important honey bee-pathogenic microsporidia

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SummaryThe population of managed honey bees has been dramatically declining in the recent past in many regions of the world. Consensus now seems to be that pathogens and parasites (e.g. the ectoparasitic miteVarroa destructor, the microsporidiumNosema ceranaeand viruses) play a major role in this demise. However, little is known about host-pathogen interactions for bee pathogens and attempts to develop novel strategies to combat bee diseases have been hampered by this gap in our knowledge. One reason for this dire situation is the complete lack of cell cultures for the propagation and study of bee pathogens. Here we present a cell culture model for two honey bee-pathogenic microsporidian species,Nosema apisandN. ceranae. Our cell culture system is based on a lepidopteran cell line, which proved to be susceptible to infection by bothN. ceranaeandN. apisand enabled us to illustrate the entire life cycle of these microsporidia. We observed hitherto undescribed spindle-shaped meronts and confirmed our findings in infected bees. Our cell culture model provides a previously unavailable means to explore the nature of interactions between the honey bee and its pathogen complex at a mechanistic level and will allow the development of novel treatment strategies.

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