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Proc Biol Sci. 2011 Jan 7;278(1702):115-21. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1304. Epub 2010 Jul 28.

Sources of variation in dietary requirements in an obligate nutritional symbiosis.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


The nutritional symbiosis between aphids and their obligate symbiont, Buchnera aphidicola, is often characterized as a highly functional partnership in which the symbiont provides the host with essential nutrients. Despite this, some aphid lineages exhibit dietary requirements for nutrients typically synthesized by Buchnera, suggesting that some aspect of the symbiosis is disrupted. To examine this phenomenon in the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, populations were assayed using defined artificial diet to determine dietary requirements for essential amino acids (EAAs). Six clones exhibiting dependence on EAAs in their diet were investigated further. In one aphid clone, a mutation in a Buchnera amino acid biosynthesis gene could account for the clone's requirement for dietary arginine. Analysis of aphid F1 hybrids allowed separation of effects of the host and symbiont genomes, and revealed that both affect the requirement for dietary EAAs in the clones tested. Amino acid requirements were minimally affected by secondary symbiont infection. Our results indicate that variation among pea aphids in dependence on dietary amino acids can result from Buchnera mutation as well as variation in the host genotype.

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