Plant cues for aphid navigation in vascular tissues

Angela Hewer, Torsten Will, Aart J E van Bel
Journal of Experimental Biology 2010 December 1, 213: 4030-42
The ability of aphids to detect and find sieve tubes suggests that aphids receive cues for sieve-tube recognition by taking samples. Specific natural conditions such as pH value, sugar species and concentration, viscosity, and oxygen pressure may enable sieve-tube detection. We tested the preference of Megoura viciae and Myzus persicae for potential plant-borne orientation parameters in artificial choice-chamber systems. Both species preferred sucrose (in comparison with fructose, glucose, raffinose or sorbitol) at concentrations of 15-22.5% (over a tested range of 0-22.5%) and at approximately pH 7 (over a tested range of pH 5-8). This preference matches the composition of the sieve-tube sap of their host plants. Likewise, Rhopalosiphum padi (normally found on barley plants with sucrose in the phloem sap) and Macrosiphum euphorbiae (normally found on pumpkin plants with raffinose-family oligosaccharides in the phloem sap) showed a significant preference for sucrose. In the absence of sucrose, however, M. euphorbiae strongly preferred raffinose. No clear preference for any carbohydrate was observed for Macrosiphum rosae and Aphis pomi (both normally found on plants with various amounts of sorbitol in the phloem sap). Electrical penetration graph (EPG) measurements of M. persicae feeding on artificial diets confirmed that sieve tubes are recognized solely by a combination of carbohydrate abundance and a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

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