A fitness cost resulting from Hamiltonella defensa infection is associated with altered probing and feeding behaviour in Rhopalosiphum padi

Daniel J. Leybourne, Tracy A. Valentine, Jorunn I. B. Bos, Alison J. Karley (Lead / Corresponding author)

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20 Citations (Scopus)
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Many herbivorous arthropods, including aphids, frequently associate with facultative endosymbiotic bacteria, which influence arthropod physiology and fitness. In aphids, endosymbionts can increase resistance against natural enemies, enhance aphid virulence and alter aphid fitness. Here, we used the electrical penetration graph technique to uncover physiological processes at the insect-plant interface affected by endosymbiont infection. We monitored the feeding and probing behaviour of four independent clonal lines of the cereal-feeding aphid Rhopalosiphum padi derived from the same multilocus genotype containing differential infection (+/-) with a common facultative endosymbiont, Hamiltonella defensa Aphid feeding was examined on a partially resistant wild relative of barley known to impair aphid fitness and a susceptible commercial barley cultivar. Compared with uninfected aphids, endosymbiont-infected aphids on both plant species exhibited a twofold increase in the number of plant cell punctures, a 50% reduction in the duration of each cellular puncture and a twofold higher probability of achieving sustained phloem ingestion. Feeding behaviour was also altered by host plant identity: endosymbiont-infected aphids spent less time probing plant tissue, required twice as many probes to reach the phloem and showed a 44% reduction in phloem ingestion when feeding on the wild barley relative compared with the susceptible commercial cultivar. Reduced feeding success could explain the 22% reduction in growth of H. defensa-infected aphids measured on the wild barley relative. This study provides the first demonstration of mechanisms at the aphid-plant interface contributing to physiological effects of endosymbiont infection on aphid fitness, through altered feeding processes on different quality host plants.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb207936
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
Early online date10 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • EPG
  • Electrical penetration graph
  • Facultative endosymbiont
  • Insect physiology
  • Symbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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