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J Insect Physiol. 1998 Jul;44(7-8):629-635.

Host cell allometry and regulation of the symbiosis between pea aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum, and bacteria, Buchnera.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of York, PO Box 373, York, UK


The symbiotic bacteria Buchnera in aphids are borne in cells, called bacteriocytes, in the insect haemocoel. The number and median volume of bacteriocytes in pre-reproductive adult insects varied significantly among 14 parthenogenetic clones of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. After logarithmic transformation of the data, the relationship of both number and median volume of bacteriocytes with aphid weight for the clones could be described by common regression lines with slopes significantly greater than zero. The allometric slope for median bacteriocyte volume was calculated as 1.06, by model I regression and 1.94 by model II regression; and the equivalent values of the allometric slope for total volume of bacteriocytes were 1.51 and 2.50, suggesting that the total volume of bacteriocytes increases disproportionately with aphid body weight. The partial correlation coefficient between the number and median volume of bacteriocytes was +0.07, with body weight held constant. It is proposed that the regulation of number and size of bacteriocytes is not linked and that bacteriocytes may not exhibit compensatory changes in size, in response to alteration in number. Experimental manipulation of the rates of bacteriocyte differentiation and division could therefore perturb the total volume of the symbiosis, on which aphid pests depend for normal growth and reproduction.

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