Varied responses by yeast-like symbionts during virulence adaptation in a monophagous phloem-feeding insect

Ferrater, J.B.; Naredo, A.I.; Almazan, M.L.P.; Jong, P.W. de; Dicke, M.; Horgan, F.G.


This study examines the three-way interaction between symbionts, insect herbivores and their host plants during adaptation to resistant crop varieties. We conducted a long-term selection study (20 generations of continuous rearing) with a monophagous phloem-feeder, the brown planthopper [Nilaparvata lugens (Stål)], on several resistant rice (Oryza sativa L.) varieties. Planthopper fitness and the abundance of yeast-like symbionts (YLS) were monitored throughout the selection process. N. lugens populations collected from six regions in the Philippines adapted to the resistant varieties as noted by increasing body size and increased egg-laying. Adaptation was partially through physiological and behavioral changes apparent during feeding: Planthoppers on resistant plants had relatively high levels of xylem feeding compared with planthoppers on susceptible plants. YLS densities were highly dependent on the host rice variety. However, there were no consistent trends in YLS density during host plant switching and virulence adaptation: Compared to densities in planthoppers on the standard susceptible variety Taichung Native 1 (TN1), YLS densities were consistently higher on PTB33 (resistant), similar on IR62 (resistant) and IR65482 (moderately resistant) but lower on IR22 (susceptible). Furthermore, YLS densities often remained the same despite improved planthopper fitness over generations. Our results do not support the hypothesis that changes in YLS density mediate planthopper adaptation to resistant varieties. However, slight reductions in YLS densities toward the end of selection on TN1, IR22 and IR62 may indicate that YLS have lower functional significance where varieties and environmental conditions are constant between generations.