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J Exp Biol. 2001 Sep;204(Pt 17):3027-38.

The impact of host plant on the abundance and function of symbiotic bacteria in an aphid.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of York, York, YO10 5YW, UK.


The black-bean aphid Aphis fabae bears populations of coccoid symbiotic bacteria Buchnera spp. at 2.0-3.2 x 10(7)cells mg(-1)aphid mass and rod-shaped secondary symbionts of uncertain taxonomic affiliation at 0.1-0.6 x 10(7)cells mg(-1)aphid mass. Buchnera provides essential amino acids, supplementing the poor supply in the aphid diet of plant phloem sap. Comparison of the performance of A. fabae containing and experimentally deprived of their bacteria showed that the bacteria caused increased larval mass of aphids reared on Chenopodium album and Papaver dubium plants, but not when reared on Lamium purpureum. In the aphids reared on L. purpureum, the density of the bacteria, especially the secondary symbionts, was significantly elevated, and bacterial-mediated production of the essential amino acid threonine was reduced, even though the essential amino acid content of phloem exudates from L. purpureum had a low threonine content. It is proposed that the shortfall in threonine, possibly compounded by the high density of secondary symbionts, may contribute to the poor performance of the aphids on L. purpureum. This study offers the first evidence to suggest plant-mediated interference with the nutritional function of symbiotic bacteria in any phytophagous insect.

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