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J Chem Ecol. 2008 Aug;34(8):1045-9. doi: 10.1007/s10886-008-9516-1. Epub 2008 Jul 4.

Phytopathogen lures its insect vector by altering host plant odor.

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  • 1Institute for Phytopathology and Applied Zoology, Justus-Liebig University of Giessen, Giessen, 35392, Germany.


Many phytopathogens that cause worldwide losses of agricultural yield are vectored by herbivorous insects. Limited information is available about the interactions among phytopathogens, host plants, and insect vectors. In this paper, we report that the cell wall-lacking bacterium Candidatus Phytoplasma mali can alter both the odor of its host plant (apple) and behavior of its vector, the univoltine psyllid Cacopsylla picta. Apple trees infected by this phytoplasma emitted higher amounts of beta-caryophyllene when compared to uninfected ones. Psyllids that had no previous contact with Ca. P. mali, as well as infected pyllids, are more attracted by volatiles emitted from phytoplasma-infected apple plants than from uninfected ones. Psyllids that had developed on infected plants without getting infected showed the opposite behavior. These results suggest that the pathogen modifies host plant odor that lures its vector to infected plants. This may result in higher numbers of transmitting vector insects within the population.

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