JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sharing a Host Plant (Wheat [Triticum aestivum]) Increases the Fitness of Fusarium graminearum and the Severity of Fusarium Head Blight but Reduces the Fitness of Grain Aphids (Sitobion avenae)

Jassy Drakulic, John Caulfield, Christine Woodcock, Stephen P T Jones, Robert Linforth, Toby J A Bruce, Rumiana V Ray
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2015 May 15, 81 (10): 3492-501
25769834
We hypothesized that interactions between fusarium head blight-causing pathogens and herbivores are likely to occur because they share wheat as a host plant. Our aim was to investigate the interactions between the grain aphid, Sitobion avenae, and Fusarium graminearum on wheat ears and the role that host volatile chemicals play in mediating interactions. Wheat ears were treated with aphids and F. graminearum inoculum, together or separately, and disease progress was monitored by visual assessment and by quantification of pathogen DNA and mycotoxins. Plants exposed to both aphids and F. graminearum inoculum showed accelerated disease progression, with a 2-fold increase in disease severity and 5-fold increase in mycotoxin accumulation over those of plants treated only with F. graminearum. Furthermore, the longer the period of aphid colonization of the host prior to inoculation with F. graminearum, the greater the amount of pathogen DNA that accumulated. Headspace samples of plant volatiles were collected for use in aphid olfactometer assays and were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and GC-coupled electroantennography. Disease-induced plant volatiles were repellent to aphids, and 2-pentadecanone was the key semiochemical underpinning the repellent effect. We measured aphid survival and fecundity on infected wheat ears and found that both were markedly reduced on infected ears. Thus, interactions between F. graminearum and grain aphids on wheat ears benefit the pathogen at the expense of the pest. Our findings have important consequences for disease epidemiology, because we show increased spread and development of host disease, together with greater disease severity and greater accumulation of pathogen DNA and mycotoxin, when aphids are present.

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