Host Plant Determines the Population Size of an Obligate Symbiont (Buchnera aphidicola) in Aphids.
Zhang YC., Cao WJ., Zhong LR., Godfray HC., Liu XD.
Buchnera aphidicolais an obligate endosymbiont that provides aphids with several essential nutrients. Though much is known about aphid-Buchnera interactions, the effect of the host plant on Buchnera population size remains unclear. Here we used quantitative PCR (qPCR) techniques to explore the effects of the host plant on Buchnera densities in the cotton-melon aphid, Aphis gossypii Buchneratiters were significantly higher in populations that had been reared on cucumber for over 10 years than in populations maintained on cotton for a similar length of time. Aphids collected in the wild from hibiscus and zucchini harbored more Buchnera symbionts than those collected from cucumber and cotton. The effect of aphid genotype on the population size of Buchnera depended on the host plant upon which they fed. When aphids from populations maintained on cucumber or cotton were transferred to novel host plants, host survival and Buchnera population size fluctuated markedly for the first two generations before becoming relatively stable in the third and later generations. Host plant extracts from cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini, and cowpea added to artificial diets led to a significant increase in Buchnera titers in the aphids from the population reared on cotton, while plant extracts from cotton and zucchini led to a decrease in Buchnera titers in the aphids reared on cucumber. Gossypol, a secondary metabolite from cotton, suppressed Buchnera populations in populations from both cotton and cucumber, while cucurbitacin from cucurbit plants led to higher densities. Together, the results suggest that host plants influence Buchnera population processes and that this may provide phenotypic plasticity in host plant use for clonal aphids.