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J Invertebr Pathol. 2008 Mar;97(3):223-9. Epub 2007 Oct 9.

Infection by the microsporidium Vairimorpha necatrix (Microspora: Microsporidia) elevates juvenile hormone titres in larvae of the tomato moth, Lacanobia oleracea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae).

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  • 1Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK.


The effects of infection by a microsporidium, Vairimorpha necatrix (Kramer), on the endogenous levels of juvenile hormones in tomato moth (Lacanobia oleracea L.) larvae were investigated. Levels of juvenile hormone II (JH II) were 10-fold greater in the infected larvae on day two of the sixth stadium but no significant difference was observed on day seven. Juvenile hormone I (JH I) was also detected in day two and day seven sixth instar infected larvae but was not detected in non-infected larvae. The duration of the fifth and sixth stadia was significantly longer for infected larvae when compared with non-infected larvae. No evidence was found to suggest that supernumerary moults are a feature of infection by V. necatrix in L. oleracea larvae. Experiments were performed to determine whether the elevation in JH levels, which probably prevents pupation, is an adaptive mechanism of the microsporidium for extending the growth phase of the host, thereby allowing increased spore production. A proportion of infected larvae were collected on days 9 and 24 of the sixth stadium and spore extracts prepared from each larva. These days represent the average duration of the sixth stadium required for uninfected larvae to reach pupation, and the average number of days that V. necatrix-infected larvae survive in the sixth stadium before dying from infection. The mean spore yields from infected larvae 24 days into the sixth stadium were significantly higher than the spore yields obtained from day nine sixth instar larvae. The hypothesis that V. necatrix manipulates host endocrinology (i.e. prolong the host larval state to maximise spore yield) is discussed in context with the results obtained.

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