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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Aug 22;270(1525):1703-12.

Host-based divergence in populations of the pea aphid: insights from nuclear markers and the prevalence of facultative symbionts.

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Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique B.P. 29, 35653 Le Rheu, Cedex, France.


In North America, the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum encompasses ecologically and genetically distinct host races that offer an ideal biological system for studies on sympatric speciation. In addition to its obligate symbiont Buchnera, pea aphids harbour several facultative and phylogenetically distant symbionts. We explored the relationships between host races of A. pisum and their symbiotic microbiota to gain insights into the historical process of ecological specialization and symbiotic acquisition in this aphid. We used allozyme and microsatellite markers to analyse the extent of genetic differentiation between populations of A. pisum on pea, alfalfa and clover in France. In parallel, we examined: (i) the distribution of four facultative symbionts; and (ii) the genetic variation in the Buchnera genome across host-associated populations of A. pisum. Our study clearly demonstrates that populations of A. pisum on pea, clover and alfalfa in France are genetically divergent, which indicates that they constitute distinct host races. We also found a very strong association between host races of A. pisum and their symbiotic microbiota. We stress the need for phylogeographic studies to shed light on the process of host-race formation and acquisition of facultative symbionts in A. pisum. We also question the effects of these symbionts on aphid host fitness, including their role in adaptation to a host plant.

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