Infection with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ improves the fecundity of Diaphorina citri aiding its proliferation: A win‐win strategy

Nian et al. (2024). Molecular Ecology 33 (2)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics Genetics
AbstractThe evolution of insect vector‐pathogen relationships has long been of interest in the field of molecular ecology. One system of special relevance, due to its economic impacts, is that between Diaphorina citri and ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas), the cause of the severe Asian form of huanglongbing. CLas‐positive D. citri are more fecund than their CLas‐negative counterparts, boosting opportunities for pathogens to acquire new vector hosts. The molecular mechanism behind this life‐history shift remains unclear. Here, we found that CLas promoted ovarian development and increased the expression of the vitellogenin receptor (DcVgR) in ovaries. DcVgR RNAi significantly decreased fecundity and CLas titer in ovaries, extended the preoviposition period, shortened the oviposition period and blocked ovarian development. Given their importance in gene regulation, we explored the role of miRNAs in shaping these phenotypes and their molecular triggers. Our results showed that one miRNA, miR‐275, suppressed DcVgR expression by binding to its 3' UTR. Overexpression of miR‐275 knocked down DcVgR expression and CLas titer in ovaries, causing reproductive defects that mimicked DcVgR knockdown phenotypes. We focused, further, on roles of the Juvenile Hormone (JH) pathway in shaping the observed fecundity phenotype, given its known impacts on ovarian development. After CLas infection, this pathway was upregulated, thereby increasing DcVgR expression. From these combined results, we conclude that CLas hijacks the JH signalling pathway and miR‐275, thereby targeting DcVgR to increase D. citri fecundity. These changes simultaneously increase CLas replication, suggesting a pathogen‐vector host mutualism, or a seemingly helpful, but cryptically costly life‐history manipulation.
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