RNA interference (RNAi), the sequence-specific suppression of gene expression, offers great opportunities for insect science, especially to analyze gene function, manage pest populations, and reduce disease pathogens. The accumulating body of literature on insect RNAi has revealed that the efficiency of RNAi varies between different species, the mode of RNAi delivery, and the genes being targeted. There is also variation in the duration of transcript suppression. At present, we have a limited capacity to predict the ideal experimental strategy for RNAi of a particular gene/insect because of our incomplete understanding of whether and how the RNAi signal is amplified and spread among insect cells. Consequently, development of the optimal RNAi protocols is a highly empirical process. This limitation can be relieved by systematic analysis of the molecular physiological basis of RNAi mechanisms in insects. An enhanced conceptual understanding of RNAi function in insects will facilitate the application of RNAi for dissection of gene function, and to fast-track the application of RNAi to both control pests and develop effective methods to protect beneficial insects and non-insect arthropods, particularly the honey bee (Apis mellifera) and cultured Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) from viral and parasitic diseases.
Insects interact with their environment and respond to the changes in host plant conditions using semiochemicals. Such ecological interactions are facilitated by the olfactory sensilla and the use of olfactory recognition proteins. The cotton aphid Aphis gossypii can change its phenotype in response to ecological conditions. They reproduce mainly as wingless asexual morphs but develop wings to find mates or new plant hosts under the influence of environmental factors such as temperature, plant nutrition and population density. Two groups of small soluble proteins, odorant binding proteins (OBPs) and chemosensory proteins (CSPs) are believed to be involved in the initial biochemical recognition steps in semiochemical perception. However, the exact molecular roles that these proteins play in insect olfaction remain to be discovered. In this study, we compared the transcriptomes of three asexual developmental stages (wingless spring and summer morphs and winged adults) and characterised 9 OBP and 9 CSP genes. The gene structure analysis showed that the number and length of introns in these genes are much higher and this appears to be unique feature of aphid OBP and CSP genes in general. Another unique feature in aphids is a higher abundance of CSP transcripts than OBP transcripts, suggesting an important role of CSPs in aphid physiology and ecology. We showed that some of the transcripts are overexpressed in the antennae in comparison to the bodies and highly expressed in the winged aphids compared to wingless morphs, suggesting a role in host location. We examined the differential expression of these olfactory genes in ten aphid species and compared the expression profile with the RNA-seq analyses of 25 pea aphid transcriptome libraries hosted on AphidBase.
A gammaproteobacterial facultative symbiont of the genus Rickettsiella was recently identified in the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Infection with this symbiont altered aphid body color from red to green, potentially affecting the host's ecological aspects, such as attractiveness to different natural enemies. In European populations of A. pisum, the majority of Rickettsiella-infected aphids also harbor another facultative symbiont, Hamiltonella. We investigated this Rickettsiella symbiont for its interactions with co-infecting Hamiltonella, its phenotypic effects on A. pisum with and without Hamiltonella co-infection, and its infection prevalence in A. pisum populations. Histological analyses revealed that co-infecting Rickettsiella and Hamiltonella exhibited overlapping localizations in secondary bacteriocytes, sheath cells and hemolymph, while Rickettsiella-specific localization was identified in oenocytes. Rickettsiella infections consistently altered hosts' body color from red to green, wherein the greenish hue was affected by both host and symbiont genotypes. Rickettsiella–Hamiltonella co-infections also changed red aphids to green; this greenish hue tended to be enhanced by Hamiltonella co-infection. Under different host genotypes, Rickettsiella infection exhibited either weakly beneficial or nearly neutral effects on host fitness, whereas Hamiltonella infection and Rickettsiella–Hamiltonella co-infection caused negative effects. Despite considerable infection frequencies with Rickettsiella in European and North American A. pisum populations, no Rickettsiella infection was detected among 1,093 insects collected from 14 sites in Japan. Based on these results, we discuss possible mechanisms for how Rickettsiella and other facultative symbionts interact with each other, affect their host phenotypes, and persist in natural host populations. We propose the designation: “Candidatus Rickettsiella viridis” for the symbiont.
Interactions between species are important catalysts of the evolutionary processes that generate the remarkable diversity of life. Symbioses, conspicuous and inherently interesting forms of species interaction, are pervasive throughout the tree of life. However, nearly all studies of the impact of species interactions on diversification have concentrated on competition and predation leaving unclear the importance of symbiotic interaction. Here, I show that, as predicted by evolutionary theories of symbiosis and diversification, multiple origins of a key innovation, symbiosis between gall-inducing insects and fungi, catalysed both expansion in resource use (niche expansion) and diversification. Symbiotic lineages have undergone a more than sevenfold expansion in the range of host-plant taxa they use relative to lineages without such fungal symbionts, as defined by the genetic distance between host plants. Furthermore, symbiotic gall-inducing insects are more than 17 times as diverse as their non-symbiotic relatives. These results demonstrate that the evolution of symbiotic interaction leads to niche expansion, which in turn catalyses diversification.
Effector proteins represent a refined mechanism of bacterial pathogens to overcome plants’ innate immune systems. These modular proteins often manipulate host physiology by directly interfering with immune signaling of plant cells. Even if host cells have developed efficient strategies to perceive the presence of pathogenic microbes and to recognize intracellular effector activity, it remains an open question why only few effectors are recognized directly by plant resistance proteins. Based on in-silico genome-wide surveys and a reevaluation of published structural data, we estimated that bacterial effectors of phytopathogens are highly enriched in long-disordered regions (>50 residues). These structurally flexible segments have no secondary structure under physiological conditions but can fold in a stimulus-dependent manner (e.g., during protein–protein interactions). The high abundance of intrinsic disorder in effectors strongly suggests positive evolutionary selection of this structural feature and highlights the dynamic nature of these proteins. We postulate that such structural flexibility may be essential for (1) effector translocation, (2) evasion of the innate immune system, and (3) host function mimicry. The study of these dynamical regions will greatly complement current structural approaches to understand the molecular mechanisms of these proteins and may help in the prediction of new effectors.
To protect against loss of photo-assimilate-rich phloem sap, plants have evolved several mechanisms to plug phloem sieve tubes in response to damage. In many Fabaceae, each sieve element contains a discrete proteinaceous body called a forisome, which, in response to damage, rapidly transforms from a condensed configuration that does not impede the flow of sap to a dispersed configuration that plugs the sieve element. Aphids and other specialized phloem sap feeders can ingest phloem sap from a single sieve element for hours or days, and to do this, they must be able to suppress or reverse phloem plugging. A recent study provided in vitro evidence that aphid saliva can reverse forisome plugs. The present study tested this hypothesis in vivo by inducing forisome plugs which triggered aphids to switch behaviour from phloem sap ingestion to salivation into the sieve element. After salivating into the sieve element for various periods of time, the aphids were instantaneously cryofixed (freeze fixed) in situ on their leaf. The state of the forisome was then determined in the penetrated sieve element and in nearby non-penetrated sieve elements which served as controls for sieve elements not subjected to direct aphid salivation. Forisomes were almost always in close contact with the stylet tips and thus came into direct contact with the saliva. Nonetheless, forisome plugs in the penetrated sieve element did not revert back to a non-plugging state any faster than those in neighbouring sieve elements that were not subjected to direct aphid salivation.
Article Plants have two mechanisms to respond to infection; pattern-triggered immunity detects conserved microbial compounds, whereas effector-triggered immunity recognizes proteins secreted by pathogens.
Herbivory, defined as feeding on live plant tissues, is characteristic of highly successful and diverse groups of insects and represents an evolutionarily derived mode of feeding. Plants present various nutritional and defensive barriers against herbivory; nevertheless, insects have evolved a diverse array of mechanisms that enable them to feed and develop on live plant tissues. For decades, it has been suggested that insect-associated microbes may facilitate host plant use, and new molecular methodologies offer the possibility to elucidate such roles. Based on genomic data, specialized feeding on phloem and xylem sap is highly dependent on nutrient provisioning by intracellular symbionts, as exemplified by Buchnera in aphids, although it is unclear whether such symbionts play a substantive role in host plant specificity of their hosts. Microorganisms present in the gut or outside the insect body could provide more functions including digestion of plant polymers and detoxification of plant-produced toxins. However, the extent of such contributions to insect herbivory remains unclear. We propose that the potential functions of microbial symbionts in facilitating or restricting the use of host plants are constrained by their location (intracellular, gut or environmental), and by the fidelity of their associations with insect host lineages. Studies in the next decade, using molecular methods from environmental microbiology and genomics, will provide a more comprehensive picture of the role of microbial symbionts in insect herbivory.
Arabidopsis thaliana plants fend off insect attack by constitutive and inducible production of toxic metabolites, such as glucosinolates (GSs). A triple mutant lacking MYC2, MYC3, and MYC4, three basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors that are known to additively control jasmonate-related defense responses, was shown to have a highly reduced expression of GS biosynthesis genes. The myc2 myc3 myc4 (myc234) triple mutant was almost completely devoid of GS and was extremely susceptible to the generalist herbivore Spodoptera littoralis. On the contrary, the specialist Pieris brassicae was unaffected by the presence of GS and preferred to feed on wild-type plants. In addition, lack of GS in myc234 drastically modified S. littoralis feeding behavior. Surprisingly, the expression of MYB factors known to regulate GS biosynthesis genes was not altered in myc234, suggesting that MYC2/MYC3/MYC4 are necessary for direct transcriptional activation of GS biosynthesis genes. To support this, chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis showed that MYC2 binds directly to the promoter of several GS biosynthesis genes in vivo. Furthermore, yeast two-hybrid and pull-down experiments indicated that MYC2/MYC3/MYC4 interact directly with GS-related MYBs. This specific MYC–MYB interaction plays a crucial role in the regulation of defense secondary metabolite production and underlines the importance of GS in shaping plant interactions with adapted and nonadapted herbivores.
Many insects rely on bacterial symbionts with tiny genomes specialized for provisioning nutrients lacking in host diets. Xylem sap and phloem sap are both deficient as insect diets, but differ dramatically in nutrient content, potentially affecting symbiont genome evolution. For sap-feeding insects, sequenced symbiont genomes are available only for phloem-feeding examples from the suborder Sternorrhyncha and xylem-feeding examples from the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, confounding comparisons. We sequenced genomes of the obligate symbionts, Sulcia muelleri and Nasuia deltocephalinicola, of the phloem-feeding pest insect, Macrosteles quadrilineatus (Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadellidae). Our results reveal that Nasuia-ALF has the smallest bacterial genome yet sequenced (112 kb), and that the Sulcia-ALF genome (190 kb) is smaller than that of Sulcia in other insect lineages. Together, these symbionts retain the capability to synthesize the 10 essential amino acids, as observed for several symbiont pairs from xylem-feeding Auchenorrhyncha. Nasuia retains genes enabling synthesis of two amino acids, DNA replication, transcription, and translation. Both symbionts have lost genes underlying ATP synthesis through oxidative phosphorylation, possibly as a consequence of the enriched sugar content of phloem. Shared genomic features, including reassignment of the UGA codon from Stop to tryptophan, and phylogenetic results suggest that Nasuia-ALF is most closely related to Zinderia, the betaproteobacterial symbiont of spittlebugs. Thus, Nasuia/Zinderia and Sulcia likely represent ancient associates that have co-resided in hosts since the divergence of leafhoppers and spittlebugs >200 million years ago, and possibly since the origin of the Auchenorrhyncha, >260 million years ago.
Studies of DNA methylation from fungi, plants, and animals indicate that gene body methylation is ancient and highly conserved in eukaryotic genomes, but its role has not been clearly defined. It has been postulated that regulation of alternative splicing of transcripts was an original function of DNA methylation, but a direct experimental test of the effect of methylation on alternative slicing at the whole genome level has never been performed. To do this, we developed a unique method to administer RNA interference (RNAi) in a high-throughput and noninvasive manner and then used it to knock down the expression of DNA methyl-transferase 3 (dnmt3), which is required for de novo DNA methylation. We chose the honey bee (Apis mellifera) for this test because it has recently emerged as an important model organism for studying the effects of DNA methylation on development and social behavior, and DNA methylation in honey bees is predominantly on gene bodies. Here we show that dnmt3 RNAi decreased global genomic methylation level as expected and in addition caused widespread and diverse changes in alternative splicing in fat tissue. Four different types of splicing events were affected by dnmt3 gene knockdown, and change in two types, exon skipping and intron retention, was directly related to decreased methylation. These results demonstrate that one function of gene body DNA methylation is to regulate alternative splicing.
The symbiotic bacterium Buchnera aphidicola lacks key genes in the biosynthesis of five essential amino acids (EAAs), and yet its animal hosts (aphids) depend on the symbiosis for the synthesis of these EAAs (isoleucine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine and valine). We tested the hypothesis, derived from genome annotation, that the missing Buchnera reactions are mediated by host enzymes, with the exchange of metabolic intermediates between the partners. The specialized host cells bearing Buchnera were separated into a Buchnera-fraction and a Buchnera-free host cell fraction (HF). Addition of HF to isolated Buchnera preparations significantly increased the production of leucine and phenylalanine; and recombinant enzymes mediating the final reactions in branched chain amino acid and phenylalanine synthesis rescued the production of these EAAs by Buchnera preparations without HF. The likely precursors for the missing proximal reactions in isoleucine and methionine synthesis were identified, and differed from predictions based on genome annotations: synthesis of 2-oxobutanoate, the aphid-derived precursor of isoleucine synthesis, was stimulated by homoserine and not threonine via threonine dehydratase; and production of the homocysteine precursor of methionine was driven by cystathionine, not cysteine via reversal of the trans-sulfuration pathway. The evolution of shared metabolic pathways in this symbiosis can be attributed to host compensation for genomic deterioration in the symbiont, involving changes in host gene expression networks to recruit specific enzymes to the host cell.
HighlightsTargeted mutagenesis with CRISPR/Cas9 nucleases of Drosophila genesHighly efficient mutant generation in up to 88% of injected fliesTransmission of mutants through the germline, in up to 34.5% of offspringHighly sensitive detection of mutations by high-resolution melt analysisSummary
Here, we present a simple and highly efficient method for generating and detecting mutations of any gene in Drosophila melanogaster through the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 system (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated). We show that injection of RNA into the Drosophila embryo can induce highly efficient mutagenesis of desired target genes in up to 88% of injected flies. These mutations can be transmitted through the germline to make stable lines. Our system provides at least a 10-fold improvement in efficiency over previously published reports, enabling wider application of this technique. We also describe a simple and highly sensitive method of detecting mutations in the target gene by high-resolution melt analysis and discuss how the new technology enables the study of gene function.
Aphids cause significant yield losses in agricultural crops worldwide. Medicago truncatula, a model legume, cultivated pasture species in Australia and close relative of alfalfa (Medicago sativa), was used to study the defence response against Therioaphis trifolii f. maculate [spotted alfalfa aphid (SAA)]. Aphid performance and plant damage were compared among three accessions. A20 is highly susceptible, A17 has moderate resistance, and Jester is strongly resistant. Subsequent analyses using A17 and A20, reciprocal F1s and an A17×A20 recombinant inbred line (RIL) population revealed that this moderate resistance is phloem mediated and involves antibiosis and tolerance but not antixenosis. Electrical penetration graph analysis also identified a novel waveform termed extended potential drop, which occurred following SAA infestation of M. truncatula. Genetic dissection using the RIL population revealed three quantitative trait loci on chromosomes 3, 6, and 7 involved in distinct modes of aphid defence including antibiosis and tolerance. An antibiosis locus resides on linkage group 3 (LG3) and is derived from A17, whereas a plant tolerance and antibiosis locus resides on LG6 and is derived from A20, which exhibits strong temporary tolerance. The loci identified reside in regions harbouring classical resistance genes, and introgression of these loci in current medic cultivars may help provide durable resistance to SAA, while elucidation of their molecular mechanisms may provide valuable insight into other aphid–plant interactions.
Aphids feed on the phloem sap of plants, and are the most common honeydew-producing insects. While aphid honeydew is primarily considered to comprise sugars and amino acids, its protein diversity has yet to be documented. Here, we report on the investigation of the honeydew proteome from the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Using a two-Dimensional Differential in-Gel Electrophoresis (2D-Dige) approach, more than 140 spots were isolated, demonstrating that aphid honeydew also represents a diverse source of proteins. About 66% of the isolated spots were identified through mass spectrometry analysis, revealing that the protein diversity of aphid honeydew originates from several organisms (i.e. the host aphid and its microbiota, including endosymbiotic bacteria and gut flora). Interestingly, our experiments also allowed to identify some proteins like chaperonin, GroEL and Dnak chaperones, elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu), and flagellin that might act as mediators in the plant-aphid interaction. In addition to providing the first aphid honeydew proteome analysis, we propose to reconsider the importance of this substance, mainly acknowledged to be a waste product, from the aphid ecology perspective.
Plants modulate defence signalling networks in response to different biotic stresses. The present study evaluated the effect of a phloem-sucking aphid on plant defence mechanisms in pepper (Capsicum annuum) during subsequent pathogen attacks on leaves and rhizosphere bacteria on roots.
Plants were pretreated with aphids and/or the chemical trigger benzothiadiazol (BTH) 7 d before being challenged with two pathogenic bacteria, Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. vesicatoria (Xav) as a compatible pathogen and X. axonopodis pv. glycines (Xag) as an incompatible (non-host) pathogen.
Disease severity was noticeably lower in aphid- and BTH + aphid-treated plants than in controls. Although treatment with BTH or aphids alone did not affect the hypersensitive response (HR) against Xag strain 8ra, the combination treatment had a synergistic effect on the HR. The aphid population was reduced by BTH pretreatment and by combination treatment with BTH and bacterial pathogens in a synergistic manner. Analysis of the expression of the defence-related genes Capsicum annum pathogenesis-related gene 9 (CaPR9), chitinase 2 (CaCHI2), SAR8·2 and Lipoxygenase1 (CaLOX1) revealed that aphid infestation resulted in the priming of the systemic defence responses against compatible and incompatible pathogens. Conversely, pre-challenge with the compatible pathogen Xav on pepper leaves significantly reduced aphid numbers. Aphid infestation increased the population of the beneficial Bacillus subtilis GB03 but reduced that of the pathogenic Ralstonia solanacearum SL1931. The expression of defence-related genes in the root and leaf after aphid feeding indicated that the above-ground aphid infestation elicited salicylic acid and jasmonic acid signalling throughout the whole plant.
The findings of this study show that aphid feeding elicits plant resistance responses and attracts beneficial bacterial populations to help the plant cope with subsequent pathogen attacks.
While many endosymbionts have beneficial effects on hosts under specific ecological conditions, there can also be associated costs. In order to maximize their own fitness, hosts must facilitate symbiont persistence while preventing symbiont exploitation of resources, which may require tight regulation of symbiont populations. As a host ages, the ability to invest in such mechanisms may lessen or be traded off with demands of other life history traits, such as survival and reproduction. Using the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, we measure survival, lifetime fecundity, and immune cell counts (haemocytes, a measure of immune capacity) in the presence of facultative secondary symbionts. Additionally, we quantify densities of the obligate primary bacterial symbiont, Buchnera aphidicola, and secondary symbionts across the host's lifetime. We find life history costs to harbouring some secondary symbiont species. Secondary symbiont populations were found to increase with host age, while Buchnera populations exhibited a more complicated pattern. Immune cell counts peaked at the mid-reproductive stage before declining in the oldest aphids. The combined effects of immunosenescence and symbiont population growth may have important consequences for symbiont transmission and maintenance within a host population.
The pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris), a legume specialist, encompasses at least 11 genetically distinct sympatric host races. Each host race shows a preference for a certain legume species. Six pea aphid clones from three host races were used to localize plant factors influencing aphid probing and feeding behavior on four legume species. Aphid performance was tested by measuring survival and growth. The location of plant factors influencing aphid probing and feeding was determined using the electrical penetration graph (EPG) technique. Every aphid clone performed best on the plant species from which it was originally collected, as well as on Vicia faba. On other plant species, clones showed intermediate or poor performance. The most important plant factors influencing aphid probing and feeding behavior were localized in the epidermis and sieve elements. Repetitive puncturing of sieve elements might be relevant for establishing phloem feeding, since feeding periods appear nearly exclusively after these repetitive sieve element punctures. A combination of plant factors influences the behavior of pea aphid host races on different legume species and likely contributes to the maintenance of these races.
Endoparasitism by gall-forming insects dramatically alters the plant phenotype by altering growth patterns and modifying plant organs in ways that appear to directly benefit the gall former. Because these morphological and physiological changes are linked to the presence of the insect, the induced phenotype is said to function as an extension of the parasite, albeit by unknown mechanisms. Here we report the gall-forming aphid-like parasite phylloxera, Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, induces stomata on the adaxial surface of grape leaves where stomata typically do not occur. We characterized the function of the phylloxera-induced stomata by tracing transport of assimilated carbon. Because induction of stomata suggests a significant manipulation of primary metabolism, we also characterized the gall transcriptome to infer the level of global reconfiguration of primary metabolism and the subsequent changes in downstream secondary metabolism. Phylloxera feeding induced stomata formation in proximity to the insect and promoted the assimilation and importation of carbon into the gall. Gene expression related to water, nutrient, and mineral transport; glycolysis; and fermentation increased in leaf-gall tissues. This shift from an autotrophic to a heterotrophic profile occurred concurrently with decreased gene expression for nonmevalonate and terpenoid synthesis and increased gene expression in shikimate and phenylpropanoid biosynthesis, secondary metabolite systems that alter defense status in grapes. These functional insect-induced stomata thus comprise part of an extended phenotype, whereby D. vitifoliae globally reprograms grape leaf development to alter patterns of primary metabolism, nutrient mobilization, and defense investment in favor of the galling habit.
Induced plant defenses in response to herbivore attack are modulated by cross-talk between jasmonic acid (JA)- and salicylic acid (SA)-signaling pathways. Oral secretions from some insect herbivores contain effectors that overcome these antiherbivore defenses. Herbivores possess diverse microbes in their digestive systems and these microbial symbionts can modify plant–insect interactions; however, the specific role of herbivore-associated microbes in manipulating plant defenses remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) larvae exploit bacteria in their oral secretions to suppress antiherbivore defenses in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). We found that antibiotic-untreated larvae decreased production of JA and JA-responsive antiherbivore defenses, but increased SA accumulation and SA-responsive gene expression. Beetles benefit from down-regulating plant defenses by exhibiting enhanced larval growth. In SA-deficient plants, suppression was not observed, indicating that suppression of JA-regulated defenses depends on the SA-signaling pathway. Applying bacteria isolated from larval oral secretions to wounded plants confirmed that three microbial symbionts belonging to the genera Stenotrophomonas, Pseudomonas, and Enterobacter are responsible for defense suppression. Additionally, reinoculation of these bacteria to antibiotic-treated larvae restored their ability to suppress defenses. Flagellin isolated from Pseudomonas sp. was associated with defense suppression. Our findings show that the herbivore exploits symbiotic bacteria as a decoy to deceive plants into incorrectly perceiving the threat as microbial. By interfering with the normal perception of herbivory, beetles can evade antiherbivore defenses of its host.
Ecologically significant symbiotic associations are frequently studied in isolation, but such studies of two-way interactions cannot always predict the responses of organisms in a community setting. To explore this issue, we adopt a community approach to examine the role of plant–microbial and insect–microbial symbioses in modulating a plant–herbivore interaction. Potato plants were grown under glass in controlled conditions and subjected to feeding from the potato aphid Macrosiphum euphorbiae. By comparing plant growth in sterile, uncultivated and cultivated soils and the performance of M. euphorbiae clones with and without the facultative endosymbiont Hamiltonella defensa, we provide evidence for complex indirect interactions between insect– and plant–microbial systems. Plant biomass responded positively to the live soil treatments, on average increasing by 15% relative to sterile soil, while aphid feeding produced shifts (increases in stem biomass and reductions in stolon biomass) in plant resource allocation irrespective of soil treatment. Aphid fecundity also responded to soil treatment with aphids on sterile soil exhibiting higher fecundities than those in the uncultivated treatment. The relative allocation of biomass to roots was reduced in the presence of aphids harbouring H. defensa compared with plants inoculated with H. defensa-free aphids and aphid-free control plants. This study provides evidence for the potential of plant and insect symbionts to shift the dynamics of plant–herbivore interactions.
Sexual recombination drives genetic diversity in eukaryotic genomes and fosters adaptation to novel environmental challenges. Although strictly asexual microorganisms are often considered as evolutionary dead ends, they comprise many devastating plant pathogens. Presently, it remains unknown how such asexual pathogens generate the genetic variation that is required for quick adaptation and evolution in the arms race with their hosts. Here, we show that extensive chromosomal rearrangements in the strictly asexual plant pathogenic fungus Verticillium dahliae establish highly dynamic lineage-specific (LS) genomic regions that act as a source for genetic variation to mediate aggressiveness. We show that such LS regions are greatly enriched for in planta-expressed effector genes encoding secreted proteins that enable host colonization. The LS regions occur at the flanks of chromosomal breakpoints and are enriched for retrotransposons and other repetitive sequence elements. Our results suggest that asexual pathogens may evolve by prompting chromosomal rearrangements, enabling rapid development of novel effector genes. Likely, chromosomal reshuffling can act as a general mechanism for adaptation in asexually propagating organisms.
Plants differ greatly in their susceptibility to insect herbivory, suggesting both local adaptation and resistance tradeoffs. We used maize (Zea mays) recombinant inbred lines to map a quantitative trait locus (QTL) for the maize leaf aphid (Rhopalosiphum maidis) susceptibility to maize Chromosome 1. Phytochemical analysis revealed that the same locus was also associated with high levels of 2-hydroxy-4,7-dimethoxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one glucoside (HDMBOA-Glc) and low levels of 2,4-dihydroxy-7-methoxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one glucoside (DIMBOA-Glc). In vitro enzyme assays with candidate genes from the region of the QTL identified three O-methyltransferases (Bx10a-c) that convert DIMBOA-Glc to HDMBOA-Glc. Variation in HDMBOA-Glc production was attributed to a natural CACTA family transposon insertion that inactivates Bx10c in maize lines with low HDMBOA-Glc accumulation. When tested with a population of 26 diverse maize inbred lines, R. maidis produced more progeny on those with high HDMBOA-Glc and low DIMBOA-Glc. Although HDMBOA-Glc was more toxic to R. maidis than DIMBOA-Glc in vitro, BX10c activity and the resulting decline of DIMBOA-Glc upon methylation to HDMBOA-Glc were associated with reduced callose deposition as an aphid defense response in vivo. Thus, a natural transposon insertion appears to mediate an ecologically relevant trade-off between the direct toxicity and defense-inducing properties of maize benzoxazinoids.
To establish a host-bacterium symbiotic association, a number of factors involved in symbiosis must operate in a coordinated manner. In insects, bacterial factors for symbiosis have been poorly characterized at the molecular and biochemical levels, since many symbionts have not yet been cultured or are as yet genetically intractable. Recently, the symbiotic association between a stinkbug, Riptortus pedestris, and its beneficial gut bacterium, Burkholderia sp., has emerged as a promising experimental model system, providing opportunities to study insect symbiosis using genetically manipulated symbiotic bacteria. Here, in search of bacterial symbiotic factors, we targeted cell wall components of the Burkholderia symbiont by disruption of uppP gene, which encodes undecaprenyl pyrophosphate phosphatase involved in biosynthesis of various bacterial cell wall components. Under culture conditions, the ΔuppP mutant showed higher susceptibility to lysozyme than the wild-type strain, indicating impaired integrity of peptidoglycan of the mutant. When administered to the host insect, the ΔuppP mutant failed to establish normal symbiotic association: the bacterial cells reached to the symbiotic midgut but neither proliferated nor persisted there. Transformation of the ΔuppP mutant with uppP-encoding plasmid complemented these phenotypic defects: lysozyme susceptibility in vitro was restored, and normal infection and proliferation in the midgut symbiotic organ were observed in vivo. The ΔuppP mutant also exhibited susceptibility to hypotonic, hypertonic, and centrifugal stresses. These results suggest that peptidoglycan cell wall integrity is a stress resistance factor relevant to the successful colonization of the stinkbug midgut by Burkholderia symbiont.