Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment



First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer A. White


Bacterial endosymbionts can have profound impacts on their host’s ecology. Notably, endosymbionts can protect their hosts against natural enemies and influence host plant interactions. The endosymbiont Candidatus Arsenophonus infects a wide taxonomic range of arthropod hosts, and is suspected of an uncharacterized mutualistic role in hemipterous insects. In the soybean aphid, Aphis glycines, an introduced pest of soybeans in the United States, Arsenophonus is the sole facultative endosymbiont. The focus of this dissertation is to characterize the role of Arsenophonus in the aphid, with an overall emphasis on its impact on aphid management strategies.

I first used diagnostic PCR to determine Arsenophonus infection frequency and strain diversity for native and introduced soybean aphids. I found that Arsenophonus infection is a uniform strain that is highly prevalent in soybean aphid. I then determined if Arsenophonus was a defense symbiont by curing two genotypes of soybean aphid of their natural Arsenophonus infection, resulting in infected and uninfected isolines within the same genetic background. I subjected these isolines to assays with three parasitoid species and a common aphid fungal pathogen, Pandora neoaphidis. I did not find differences in parasitism or fungal infections within the treatments. These results indicate that, although Arsenophonus is widespread, the symbiont should not interfere with biological control efforts.

I next examined the influence of Arsenophonus on the ability of soybean aphid “biotypes” to colonize resistant Rag plants. I cured three additional soybean aphid biotypes. All isolines were subjected to growth rate assays on resistant Rag versus susceptible soybean. My results indicate that Arsenophonus infected soybean aphids have an increased population growth compared to uninfected aphids regardless of soybean plant type

Finally, I induced soybean plants with jasmonic acid (JA) or salicylic acid (SA) to determine the effective plant defense against soybean aphid feeding. I also used Arsenophonus infected and uninfected aphids to determine any interaction between Arsenophonus and plant defense. I found SA treatment decreased soybean aphid population growth for one experiment, but had no effect when replicated. JA treatment had no effect, and there were no interactions between Arsenophonus infection and plant treatments.