Year of Publication

2018

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture, Food and Environment

Department

Entomology

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer A. White

Abstract

Many insects form close relationships with microbial symbionts. Insect symbionts can provide novel phenotypes to their hosts, including influencing dietary breadth. In the polyphagous cowpea aphid, Aphis craccivora, the facultative symbiont Arsenophonus improves aphid performance on one host plant (locust), but decreases performance on other plants. The goal of my thesis was to investigate the mechanism by which Arsenophonus facilitates use of locust. First, I assembled an Aphis craccivora-Arsenophonus-Buchnera reference transcriptome to conduct RNAseq analysis, comparing gene expression in aphids feeding on locust and fava, with and without Arsenophonus infection. Overall, few transcripts were differentially expressed. However, genes that were differentially expressed mapped to a variety of processes, including metabolism of glucose, cytoskeleton regulation, cold and drought regulation, and B-vitamin synthesis. These results imply that Arsenophonus is producing B-vitamins, which might be deficient in locust. In a second set of experiments, I used qPCR to test whether symbiont function across host plants might be mediated by bacterial titer. I measured relative Arsenophonus abundance across plants, and found Arsenophonus titer was variable, but generally greater on locust than fava. In summary, my results suggest that Arsenophonus synthesis of B-vitamins should be further investigated and may be mediated by bacterial titer.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2018.018

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