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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Mar;72(3):1956-65.

The phytopathogen Dickeya dadantii (Erwinia chrysanthemi 3937) is a pathogen of the pea aphid.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biologie Fonctionnelle Insectes et Interactions, BF2I, UMR 203 INRA-INSA de Lyon, Bat. L.-Pasteur, F-69621 Villeurbanne Cedex, France.

Abstract

Dickeya dadantii (Erwinia chrysanthemi) is a phytopathogenic bacterium causing soft rot diseases on many crops. The sequencing of its genome identified four genes encoding homologues of the Cyt family of insecticidal toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis, which are not present in the close relative Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. atrosepticum. The pathogenicity of D. dadantii was tested on the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum, and the bacterium was shown to be highly virulent for this insect, either by septic injury or by oral infection. The lethal inoculum dose was calculated to be as low as 10 ingested bacterial cells. A D. dadantii mutant with the four cytotoxin genes deleted showed a reduced per os virulence for A. pisum, highlighting the potential role of at least one of these genes in pathogenicity. Since only one bacterial pathogen of aphids has been previously described (Erwinia aphidicola), other species from the same bacterial group were tested. The pathogenic trait for aphids was shown to be widespread, albeit variable, within the phytopathogens, with no link to phylogenetic positioning in the Enterobacteriaceae. Previously characterized gut symbionts from thrips (Erwinia/Pantoea group) were also highly pathogenic to the aphid, whereas the potent entomopathogen Photorhabdus luminescens was not. D. dadantii is not a generalist insect pathogen, since it has low pathogenicity for three other insect species (Drosophila melanogaster, Sitophilus oryzae, and Spodoptera littoralis). D. dadantii was one of the most virulent aphid pathogens in our screening, and it was active on most aphid instars, except for the first one, probably due to anatomical filtering. The observed difference in virulence toward apterous and winged aphids may have an ecological impact, and this deserves specific attention in future research.

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