A facultative endosymbiont in aphids can provide diverse ecological benefits

E R Heyworth, J Ferrari

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Ecologically important traits of insects are often affected by facultative bacterial endosymbionts. This is best studied in the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum, which is frequently infected by one or more of eight facultative symbiont species. Many of these symbiont species have been shown to provide one ecological benefit, but we have little understanding of the range of effects that a single strain can have. Here, we describe the phenotypes conferred by three strains of the recently discovered bacterium known as X-type (Enterobacteriaceae), each in their original aphid genotype which also carries a Spiroplasma symbiont. All comparisons are made between aphids that are coinfected with Spiroplasma and X-type and aphids of the same genotype that harbour only Spiroplasma. We show that in all cases, infection with X-type protects aphids from the lethal fungal pathogen Pandora neoaphidis, and in two cases, resistance to the parasitoid Aphidius ervi also increases. X-type can additionally affect aphid stress responses - the presence of X-type increased reproduction after the aphids were heat-stressed. Two of the three strains of X-type are able to provide all of these benefits. Under benign conditions, the aphids tended to suffer from reduced fecundity when harbouring X-type, a mechanism that might maintain intermediate frequencies in field populations. These findings highlight that a single strain of a facultative endosymbiont has the potential to provide diverse benefits to its aphid host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1753-1760
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of evolutionary biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

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