Aphid-encoded variability in susceptibility to a parasitoid.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Many animals exhibit variation in resistance to specific natural enemies. Such variation may be encoded in their genomes or derived from infection with protective symbionts. The pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, for example, exhibits tremendous variation in susceptibility to a common natural enemy, the parasitic wasp Aphidius ervi. Pea aphids are often infected with the heritable bacterial symbiont, Hamiltonella defensa, which confers partial to complete resistance against this parasitoid depending on bacterial strain and associated bacteriophages. That previous studies found that pea aphids without H. defensa (or other symbionts) were generally susceptible to parasitism, together with observations of a limited encapsulation response, suggested that pea aphids largely rely on infection with H. defensa for protection against parasitoids. However, the limited number of uninfected clones previously examined, and our recent report of two symbiont-free resistant clones, led us to explicitly examine aphid-encoded variability in resistance to parasitoids. RESULTS:After rigorous screening for known and unknown symbionts, and microsatellite genotyping to confirm clonal identity, we conducted parasitism assays using fifteen clonal pea aphid lines. We recovered significant variability in aphid-encoded resistance, with variation levels comparable to that contributed by H. defensa. Because resistance can be costly, we also measured aphid longevity and cumulative fecundity of the most and least resistant aphid lines under permissive conditions, but found no trade-offs between higher resistance and these fitness parameters. CONCLUSIONS:These results indicate that pea aphid resistance to A. ervi is more complex than previously appreciated, and that aphids employ multiple tactics to aid in their defense. While we did not detect a tradeoff, these may become apparent under stressful conditions or when resistant and susceptible aphids are in direct competition. Understanding sources and amounts of variation in resistance to natural enemies is necessary to understand the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of antagonistic interactions, such as the potential for coevolution, but also for the successful management of pest populations through biological control.
Project description:Insects use endogenous mechanisms and infection with protective symbionts to thwart attacks from natural enemies. Defenses that target specific enemies, however, potentially mediate competition between rivals and thereby impact community composition. Following its introduction to North America to control pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum), the parasitoid Aphidius ervi competitively displaced other parasitoids, except for the native Praon pequodorum. The pea aphid exhibits tremendous clonal variation in resistance to A. ervi, primarily through infection with the heritable bacterial symbiont Hamiltonella defensa, although some symbiont-free aphid genotypes encode endogenous resistance. Interestingly, H. defensa strains and aphid genotypes that protect against A. ervi, provide no protection against the closely related, P. pequodorum. Given the specificity of aphid defenses, we hypothesized that aphid resistance traits may contribute to the continued persistence of P. pequodorum. We conducted multiparasitism assays to determine whether aphid resistance traits mediate internal competition between these two solitary parasitoid species, but found this was not the case; P. pequodorum was the successful internal competitor across lines varying in susceptibility to A. ervi. Next, to determine whether resistance traits influence competitive interactions resulting in the stable persistence of P. pequodorum, we established replicated cages varying in the proportion of resistant aphids and recorded successful parasitism for each wasp species over time. As expected, A. ervi outcompeted P. pequodorum in cages containing only susceptible aphids. However, P. pequodorum not only persisted, but was the superior competitor in populations containing any proportion (20-100%) of resistant aphids (20-100%). Smaller scale, better replicated competition cage studies corroborated this finding, and no-competition and behavioral assays provide insight into the processes mediating competition. Genetic variation, including that acquired via infection with protective symbionts, may provide a supply of hosts susceptible only to particular enemies, mediating competition with effects on community richness and stability.
Project description:Insects are often attacked by multiple natural enemies, imposing dynamic selective pressures for the development and maintenance of enemy-specific resistance. Pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) have emerged as models for the study of variation in resistance against natural enemies, including parasitoid wasps. Internal defenses against their most common parasitoid wasp, Aphidius ervi, are sourced through two known mechanisms- 1) endogenously encoded resistance or 2) infection with the heritable bacterial symbiont, Hamiltonella defensa. Levels of resistance can range from nearly 0-100% against A. ervi but varies based on aphid genotype and the strain of toxin-encoding bacteriophage (called APSE) carried by Hamiltonella. Previously, other parasitoid wasps were found to commonly attack this host, but North American introductions of A. ervi have apparently displaced all other parasitoids except Praon pequodorum, a related aphidiine braconid wasp, which is still found attacking this host in natural populations. To explain P. pequodorum's persistence, multiple studies have compared direct competition between both wasps, but have not examined specificity of host defenses as an indirectly mediating factor. Using an array of experimental aphid lines, we first examined whether aphid defenses varied in effectiveness toward either wasp species. Expectedly, both types of aphid defenses were effective against A. ervi, but unexpectedly, were completely ineffective against P. pequodorum. Further examination showed that P. pequodorum wasps suffered no consistent fitness costs from developing in even highly 'resistant' aphids. Comparison of both wasps' egg-larval development revealed that P. pequodorum's eggs have thicker chorions and hatch two days later than A. ervi's, likely explaining their differing abilities to overcome aphid defenses. Overall, our results indicate that aphids resistant to A. ervi may serve as reservoirs for P. pequodorum, hence contributing to its persistence in field populations. We find that specificity of host defenses and defensive symbiont infections, may have important roles in influencing enemy compositions by indirectly mediating the interactions and abundance of rival natural enemies.
Project description:Eukaryotes commonly host communities of heritable symbiotic bacteria, many of which are not essential for their hosts' survival and reproduction. There is laboratory evidence that these facultative symbionts can provide useful adaptations, such as increased resistance to natural enemies. However, we do not know how symbionts affect host fitness when the latter are subject to attack by a natural suite of parasites and pathogens. Here, we test whether two protective symbionts, Regiella insecticola and Hamiltonella defensa, increase the fitness of their host, the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum), under natural conditions. We placed experimental populations of two pea aphid lines, each with and without symbionts, in five wet meadow sites to expose them to a natural assembly of enemy species. The aphids were then retrieved and mortality from parasitoids, fungal pathogens and other causes assessed. We found that both Regiella and Hamiltonella reduce the proportion of aphids killed by the specific natural enemies against which they have been shown to protect in laboratory and cage experiments. However, this advantage was nullified (Hamiltonella) or reversed (Regiella) by an increase in mortality from other natural enemies and by the cost of carrying the symbiont. Symbionts therefore affect community structure by altering the relative success of different natural enemies. Our results show that protective symbionts are not necessarily advantageous to their hosts, and may even behave more like parasites than mutualists. Nevertheless, bacterial symbionts may play an important role in determining food web structure and dynamics.
Project description:Animal-associated microbes are highly variable, contributing to a diverse set of symbiont-mediated phenotypes. Given that host and symbiont genotypes, and their interactions, can impact symbiont-based phenotypes across environments, there is potential for extensive variation in fitness outcomes. Pea aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum, host a diverse assemblage of heritable facultative symbionts (HFS) with characterized roles in host defense. Protective phenotypes have been largely studied as single infections, but pea aphids often carry multiple HFS species, and particular combinations may be enriched or depleted compared to expectations based on chance. Here, we examined the consequences of single infection versus coinfection with two common HFS exhibiting variable enrichment, the antiparasitoid Hamiltonella defensa and the antipathogen Regiella insecticola, across three host genotypes and environments. As expected, single infections with either H. defensa or R. insecticola raised defenses against their respective targets. Single infections with protective H. defensa lowered aphid fitness in the absence of enemy challenge, while R. insecticola was comparatively benign. However, as a coinfection, R. insecticola ameliorated H. defensa infection costs. Coinfected aphids continued to receive antiparasitoid protection from H. defensa, but protection was weakened by R. insecticola in two clones. Notably, H. defensa eliminated survival benefits conferred after pathogen exposure by coinfecting R. insecticola Since pathogen sporulation was suppressed by R. insecticola in coinfected aphids, the poor performance likely stemmed from H. defensa-imposed costs rather than weakened defenses. Our results reveal a complex set of coinfection outcomes which may partially explain natural infection patterns and suggest that symbiont-based phenotypes may not be easily predicted based solely on infection status.IMPORTANCE The hyperdiverse arthropods often harbor maternally transmitted bacteria that protect against natural enemies. In many species, low-diversity communities of heritable symbionts are common, providing opportunities for cooperation and conflict among symbionts, which can impact the defensive services rendered. Using the pea aphid, a model for defensive symbiosis, we show that coinfections with two common defensive symbionts, the antipathogen Regiella and the antiparasite Hamiltonella, produce outcomes that are highly variable compared to single infections, which consistently protect against designated enemies. Compared to single infections, coinfections often reduced defensive services during enemy challenge yet improved aphid fitness in the absence of enemies. Thus, infection with multiple symbionts does not necessarily create generalist aphids with "Swiss army knife" defenses against numerous enemies. Instead, particular combinations of symbionts may be favored for a variety of reasons, including their abilities to lessen the costs of other defensive symbionts when enemies are not present.
Project description:Many insects host facultative, bacterial symbionts that confer conditional fitness benefits to their hosts. Hamiltonella defensa is a common facultative symbiont of aphids that provides protection against parasitoid wasps. Protection levels vary among strains of H. defensa that are also differentially infected by bacteriophages named APSEs. However, little is known about trait variation among strains because only one isolate has been fully sequenced. Generating complete genomes for facultative symbionts is hindered by relatively large genome sizes but low abundances in hosts like aphids that are very small. Here, we took advantage of methods for culturing H. defensa outside of aphids to generate complete genomes and transcriptome data for four strains of H. defensa from the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Chosen strains also spanned the breadth of the H. defensa phylogeny and differed in strength of protection conferred against parasitoids. Results indicated that strains shared most genes with roles in nutrient acquisition, metabolism, and essential housekeeping functions. In contrast, the inventory of mobile genetic elements varied substantially, which generated strain specific differences in gene content and genome architecture. In some cases, specific traits correlated with differences in protection against parasitoids, but in others high variation between strains obscured identification of traits with likely roles in defense. Transcriptome data generated continuous distributions to genome assemblies with some genes that were highly expressed and others that were not. Single molecule real-time sequencing further identified differences in DNA methylation patterns and restriction modification systems that provide defense against phage infection.
Project description:The molecular mechanisms that allow generalist parasitoids to exploit many, often very distinct hosts are practically unknown. The wasp Aphidius ervi, a generalist koinobiont parasitoid of aphids, was introduced from Europe into Chile in the late 1970s to control agriculturally important aphid species. A recent study showed significant differences in host preference and host acceptance (infectivity) depending on the host A. ervi were reared on. In contrast, no genetic differentiation between A. ervi populations parasitizing different aphid species and aphids of the same species reared on different host plants was found in Chile. Additionally, the same study did not find any fitness effects in A. ervi if offspring were reared on a different host as their mothers. Here, we determined the effect of aphid host species (Sitobion avenae versus Acyrthosiphon pisum reared on two different host plants alfalfa and pea) on the transcriptome of adult A. ervi females. We found a large number of differentially expressed genes (between host species: head: 2,765; body: 1,216; within the same aphid host species reared on different host plants: alfalfa versus pea: head 593; body 222). As expected, the transcriptomes from parasitoids reared on the same host species (pea aphid) but originating from different host plants (pea versus alfalfa) were more similar to each other than the transcriptomes of parasitoids reared on a different aphid host and host plant (head: 648 and 1,524 transcripts; body: 566 and 428 transcripts). We found several differentially expressed odorant binding proteins and olfactory receptor proteins in particular, when we compared parasitoids from different host species. Additionally, we found differentially expressed genes involved in neuronal growth and development as well as signaling pathways. These results point towards a significant rewiring of the transcriptome of A. ervi depending on aphid-plant complex where parasitoids develop, even if different biotypes of a certain aphid host species (A. pisum) are reared on the same host plant. This difference seems to persist even after the different wasp populations were reared on the same aphid host in the laboratory for more than 50 generations. This indicates that either the imprinting process is very persistent or there is enough genetic/allelic variation between A. ervi populations. The role of distinct molecular mechanisms is discussed in terms of the formation of host fidelity.
Project description:Heritable symbionts are common in insects with many contributing to host defence. Hamiltonella defensa is a facultative, bacterial symbiont of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum that provides protection against the endoparasitoid wasp Aphidius ervi Protection levels vary among strains of H. defensa that are differentially infected by bacteriophages named APSEs. By contrast, little is known about mechanism(s) of resistance owing to the intractability of host-restricted microbes for functional study. Here, we developed methods for culturing strains of H. defensa that varied in the presence and type of APSE. Most H. defensa strains proliferated at 27°C in co-cultures with the TN5 cell line or as pure cultures with no insect cells. The strain infected by APSE3, which provides high levels of protection in vivo, produced a soluble factor(s) that disabled development of A. ervi embryos independent of any aphid factors. Experimental transfer of APSE3 also conferred the ability to disable A. ervi development to a phage-free strain of H. defensa Altogether, these results provide a critical foundation for characterizing symbiont-derived factor(s) involved in host protection and other functions. Our results also demonstrate that phage-mediated transfer of traits provides a mechanism for innovation in host restricted symbionts.
Project description:There is growing interest in biological control as a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to control pest insects. Aphids are among the most detrimental agricultural pests worldwide, and parasitoid wasps are frequently employed for their control. The use of asexual parasitoids may improve the effectiveness of biological control because only females kill hosts and because asexual populations have a higher growth rate than sexuals. However, asexuals may have a reduced capacity to track evolutionary change in their host populations. We used a factorial experiment to compare the ability of sexual and asexual populations of the parasitoid Lysiphlebus fabarum to control caged populations of black bean aphids (Aphis fabae) of high and low clonal diversity. The aphids came from a natural population, and one-third of the aphid clones harbored Hamiltonella defensa, a heritable bacterial endosymbiont that increases resistance to parasitoids. We followed aphid and parasitoid population dynamics for 3 months but found no evidence that the reproductive mode of parasitoids affected their effectiveness as biocontrol agents, independent of host clonal diversity. Parasitoids failed to control aphids in most cases, because their introduction resulted in strong selection for clones protected by H. defensa. The increasingly resistant aphid populations escaped control by parasitoids, and we even observed parasitoid extinctions in many cages. The rapid evolution of symbiont-conferred resistance in turn imposed selection on parasitoids. In cages where asexual parasitoids persisted until the end of the experiment, they became dominated by a single genotype able to overcome the protection provided by H. defensa. Thus, there was evidence for parasitoid counteradaptation, but it was generally too slow for parasitoids to regain control over aphid populations. It appears that when pest aphids possess defensive symbionts, the presence of parasitoid genotypes able to overcome symbiont-conferred resistance is more important for biocontrol success than their reproductive mode.
Project description:Aphids maintain mutualistic symbioses involving consortia of coinherited organisms. All possess a primary endosymbiont, Buchnera, which compensates for dietary deficiencies; many also contain secondary symbionts, such as Hamiltonella defensa, which confers defense against natural enemies. Genome sequences of uncultivable secondary symbionts have been refractory to analysis due to the difficulties of isolating adequate DNA samples. By amplifying DNA from hemolymph of infected pea aphids, we obtained a set of genomic sequences of H. defensa and an associated bacteriophage. H. defensa harbors two type III secretion systems, related to those that mediate host cell entry by enteric pathogens. The phage, called APSE-2, is a close relative of the previously sequenced APSE-1 but contains intact homologs of the gene encoding cytolethal distending toxin (cdtB), which interrupts the eukaryotic cell cycle and which is known from a variety of mammalian pathogens. The cdtB homolog is highly expressed, and its genomic position corresponds to that of a homolog of stx (encoding Shiga-toxin) within APSE-1. APSE-2 genomes were consistently abundant in infected pea aphids, and related phages were found in all tested isolates of H. defensa, from numerous insect species. Based on their ubiquity and abundance, these phages appear to be an obligate component of the H. defensa life cycle. We propose that, in these mutualistic symbionts, phage-borne toxin genes provide defense to the aphid host and are a basis for the observed protection against eukaryotic parasites.
Project description:There is increasing demand for sustainable pest management to reduce harmful effects of pesticides on the environment and human health. For pest aphids, biological control with parasitoid wasps provides a welcome alternative, particularly in greenhouses. However, aphids are frequently infected with the heritable bacterial endosymbiont Hamiltonella defensa, which increases resistance to parasitoids and thereby hampers biological control. Using the black bean aphid (Aphis fabae) and its main parasitoid Lysiphlebus fabarum, we tested whether prior adaptation of parasitoids can improve the control of symbiont-protected pests. We had parasitoid lines adapted to two different strains of H. defensa by experimental evolution, as well as parasitoids evolved on H. defensa-free aphids. We compared their ability to control caged aphid populations comprising 60% unprotected and 40% H. defensa-protected aphids, with both H. defensa strains present in the populations. Parasitoids that were not adapted to H. defensa had virtually no effect on aphid population dynamics compared to parasitoid-free controls, but one of the adapted lines and a mixture of both adapted lines controlled aphids successfully, strongly benefitting plant growth. Selection by parasitoids altered aphid population composition in a very specific manner. Aphid populations became dominated by H. defensa-protected aphids in the presence of parasitoids, and each adapted parasitoid line selected for the H. defensa strain it was not adapted to. This study shows, for the first time, that prior adaptation of parasitoids improves biological control of symbiont-protected pests, but the high specificity of parasitoid counter-resistance may represent a challenge for its implementation.