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1.  Induced Release of a Plant-Defense Volatile ‘Deceptively’ Attracts Insect Vectors to Plants Infected with a Bacterial Pathogen 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(3):e1002610.
Transmission of plant pathogens by insect vectors is a complex biological process involving interactions between the plant, insect, and pathogen. Pathogen-induced plant responses can include changes in volatile and nonvolatile secondary metabolites as well as major plant nutrients. Experiments were conducted to understand how a plant pathogenic bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (Las), affects host preference behavior of its psyllid (Diaphorina citri Kuwayama) vector. D. citri were attracted to volatiles from pathogen-infected plants more than to those from non-infected counterparts. Las-infected plants were more attractive to D. citri adults than non-infected plants initially; however after feeding, psyllids subsequently dispersed to non-infected rather than infected plants as their preferred settling point. Experiments with Las-infected and non-infected plants under complete darkness yielded similar results to those recorded under light. The behavior of psyllids in response to infected versus non-infected plants was not influenced by whether or not they were carriers of the pathogen. Quantification of volatile release from non-infected and infected plants supported the hypothesis that odorants mediate psyllid preference. Significantly more methyl salicylate, yet less methyl anthranilate and D-limonene, was released by infected than non-infected plants. Methyl salicylate was attractive to psyllids, while methyl anthranilate did not affect their behavior. Feeding on citrus by D. citri adults also induced release of methyl salicylate, suggesting that it may be a cue revealing location of conspecifics on host plants. Infected plants were characterized by lower levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, zinc, and iron, as well as, higher levels of potassium and boron than non-infected plants. Collectively, our results suggest that host selection behavior of D. citri may be modified by bacterial infection of plants, which alters release of specific headspace volatiles and plant nutritional contents. Furthermore, we show in a laboratory setting that this apparent pathogen-mediated manipulation of vector behavior may facilitate pathogen spread.
Author Summary
In this investigation, we experimentally demonstrate specific mechanisms through which a bacterial plant pathogen induces plant responses that modify behavior of its insect vector. Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, a fastidious, phloem-limited bacterium responsible for causing huanglongbing disease of citrus, induced release of a specific volatile chemical, methyl salicylate, which increased attractiveness of infected plants to its insect vector, Diaphorina citri, and caused vectors to initially prefer infected plants. However, the insect vectors subsequently dispersed to non-infected plants as their preferred location of prolonged settling because of likely sub-optimal nutritional content of infected plants. The duration of initial feeding on infected plants was sufficiently long for the vectors to acquire the pathogen before they dispersed to non-infected plants, suggesting that the bacterial pathogen manipulates behavior of its insect vector to promote its own proliferation. The behavior of psyllids in response to infected versus non-infected plants was not influenced by whether or not they were carriers of the pathogen and was similar under both light and dark conditions. Feeding on citrus by D. citri adults also induced the release of methyl salicylate, suggesting that it may be a cue revealing location of conspecifics on host plants.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002610
PMCID: PMC3310815  PMID: 22457628
2.  Sexual Transmission of a Plant Pathogenic Bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, between Conspecific Insect Vectors during Mating 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29197.
Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus is a fastidious, phloem-inhabiting, gram-negative bacterium transmitted by Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Psyllidae). The bacterium is the presumed causal agent of huanglongbing (HLB), one of the most destructive and economically important diseases of citrus. We investigated whether Las is transmitted between infected and uninfected D. citri adults during courtship. Our results indicate that Las was sexually transmitted from Las-infected male D. citri to uninfected females at a low rate (<4%) during mating. Sexual transmission was not observed following mating of infected females and uninfected males or among adult pairs of the same sex. Las was detected in genitalia of both sexes and also in eggs of infected females. A latent period of 7 days or more was required to detect the bacterium in recipient females. Rod shaped as well as spherical structures resembling Las were observed in ovaries of Las-infected females with transmission electron microscopy, but were absent in ovaries from uninfected D. citri females. The size of the rod shaped structures varied from 0.39 to 0.67 µm in length and 0.19 to 0.39 µm in width. The spherical structures measured from 0.61 to 0.80 µm in diameter. This investigation provides convincing evidence that a plant pathogenic bacterium is sexually transmitted from male to female insects during courtship and established evidence that bacteria persist in reproductive organs. Moreover, these findings provide an alternative sexually horizontal mechanism for the spread of Las within populations of D. citri, even in the absence of infected host trees.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029197
PMCID: PMC3244449  PMID: 22216209

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