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1.  Interspecific Nematode Signals Regulate Dispersal Behavior 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38735.
Background
Dispersal is an important nematode behavior. Upon crowding or food depletion, the free living bacteriovorus nematode Caenorhabditis elegans produces stress resistant dispersal larvae, called dauer, which are analogous to second stage juveniles (J2) of plant parasitic Meloidogyne spp. and infective juveniles (IJ)s of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN), e.g., Steinernema feltiae. Regulation of dispersal behavior has not been thoroughly investigated for C. elegans or any other nematode species. Based on the fact that ascarosides regulate entry in dauer stage as well as multiple behaviors in C. elegans adults including mating, avoidance and aggregation, we hypothesized that ascarosides might also be involved in regulation of dispersal behavior in C. elegans and for other nematodes such as IJ of phylogenetically related EPNs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of C. elegans dauer conditioned media, which shows strong dispersing activity, revealed four known ascarosides (ascr#2, ascr#3, ascr#8, icas#9). A synthetic blend of these ascarosides at physiologically relevant concentrations dispersed C. elegans dauer in the presence of food and also caused dispersion of IJs of S. feltiae and J2s of plant parasitic Meloidogyne spp. Assay guided fractionation revealed structural analogs as major active components of the S. feltiae (ascr#9) and C. elegans (ascr#2) dispersal blends. Further analysis revealed ascr#9 in all Steinernema spp. and Heterorhabditis spp. infected insect host cadavers.
Conclusions/Significance
Ascaroside blends represent evolutionarily conserved, fundamentally important communication systems for nematodes from diverse habitats, and thus may provide sustainable means for control of parasitic nematodes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038735
PMCID: PMC3368880  PMID: 22701701
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Recognition of foreign oviposition marking pheromones is context dependent and determined by preimaginal conditioning 
Many insects deposit marking pheromones following egg-laying that signal an occupied and thus sub-optimal resource. Herbivorous insects mark host fruit or other vegetative plant parts after depositing eggs, while insect parasitoids deposit such pheromones directly on the cuticle of a particular life stage of their prey. These oviposition marking pheromones (OMPs) are then recognized by conspecifics, which avoid subsequent egg-laying in the previously utilized and unsuitable host. Since many host resources are capable of supporting a limited number of offspring, these pheromones function to decrease competition among the brood, which increases survival rate of the subsequent generation. In rare instances, distinct species of phytophagous and parasitic insects will inspect the same substrate following egg-laying.1 Recently, Stelinski et al.1 have demonstrated that in such instances, the herbivore is able to learn to recognize its predator's OMP and utilize it to its advantage by avoiding oviposition into unsuitable host fruit. This recognition of a foreign marking pheromone occurs in a multitrophic context since both herbivore and parasitoid inspect, oviposit into, and mark the same substrate (i.e., fruit surface). In this Article Addendum, we further show that this recognition of a foreign pheromone is both context-dependent and mediated by preimaginal conditioning.
PMCID: PMC2775229  PMID: 19907696
xenodeictic pheromone; Rhagoletis pomonella; Diachasma alloeum; host marking; parasitoid; behavioral plasticity; larval conditioning
5.  Subterranean, Herbivore-Induced Plant Volatile Increases Biological Control Activity of Multiple Beneficial Nematode Species in Distinct Habitats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38146.
While the role of herbivore-induced volatiles in plant-herbivore-natural enemy interactions is well documented aboveground, new evidence suggests that belowground volatile emissions can protect plants by attracting entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs). However, due to methodological limitations, no study has previously detected belowground herbivore-induced volatiles in the field or quantified their impact on attraction of diverse EPN species. Here we show how a belowground herbivore-induced volatile can enhance mortality of agriculturally significant root pests. First, in real time, we identified pregeijerene (1,5-dimethylcyclodeca-1,5,7-triene) from citrus roots 9–12 hours after initiation of larval Diaprepes abbreviatus feeding. This compound was also detected in the root zone of mature citrus trees in the field. Application of collected volatiles from weevil-damaged citrus roots attracted native EPNs and increased mortality of beetle larvae (D. abbreviatus) compared to controls in a citrus orchard. In addition, field applications of isolated pregeijerene caused similar results. Quantitative real-time PCR revealed that pregeijerene increased pest mortality by attracting four species of naturally occurring EPNs in the field. Finally, we tested the generality of this root-zone signal by application of pregeijerene in blueberry fields; mortality of larvae (Galleria mellonella and Anomala orientalis) again increased by attracting naturally occurring populations of an EPN. Thus, this specific belowground signal attracts natural enemies of widespread root pests in distinct agricultural systems and may have broad potential in biological control of root pests.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038146
PMCID: PMC3384653  PMID: 22761668

Results 1-5 (5)