Aphids are devastating insect pests and cause great losses to agriculture worldwide. These sap-feeding plant pests harbor in their body cavity bacteria, which are essential for the aphids’ fecundity and survival. However, the bacterium proceeds to betray the aphid, a research team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside has found.

“Although this betrayal is unintentional, it nevertheless alerts the plant about the aphid’s presence and the aphids are unable to reproduce in large numbers,” said Isgouhi Kaloshian, a professor of nematology, who led the research project.  “A protein from the bacterium, found in the aphid saliva and likely delivered inside the plant host by the aphid, triggers plant immune responses against the aphid.  It seems that the plant immune system targets the bacterium and exploits the strict mutual dependency between the plant and aphid to recognize the aphid as the intruder.”

Study results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To read the article explaining the research results in reasonably simple terms click here.