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J Insect Physiol. 2000 Mar;46(3):335-341.

Living on a high sugar diet: the fate of sucrose ingested by a phloem-feeding insect, the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum.

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Department of Biology, University of York, P.O. Box 373, York, UK


The natural diet of aphids, plant phloem sap, generally contains high concentrations of sucrose. When pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) were fed on chemically defined diets containing sucrose radiolabelled in the glucose or fructose moiety, 2 to 12-fold and 87 to 110-fold more radioactivity was recovered from the tissues and honeydew, respectively, of aphids that ingested [U-(14)C-glucose]-sucrose than from those ingesting [U-(14)C-fructose]-sucrose. The total radioactivity recovered was 70% of the ingested [U-(14)C-glucose]-sucrose and <5% of ingested [U-(14)C-fructose]-sucrose. The dominant honeydew sugars produced by aphids feeding on 0.75 M sucrose diets were oligosaccharides comprising glucose. In vitro the guts of pea aphids had high sucrase activity, 1-5 U mg(-1) protein, generating equimolar glucose and fructose except at high sucrose concentrations where glucose production was inhibited (K(si)=0.1 M). These data suggest that the fructose moiety of ingested sucrose is assimilated very efficiently and may be preferentially respired by the aphid, and that the glucose moiety of sucrose is incorporated into oligosaccharides by the transglucosidase activity of the gut sucrase at high sucrose concentrations. These differences in the fate of sucrose-derived glucose and fructose are important elements in both the carbon nutrition and osmoregulation of aphids.

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