We have developed an Arabidopsis thaliana/Myzus persicae model system to allow the dissection of plant/insect interactions at a molecular genetic level. This allows the examination of the role of single plant genes in the interaction between the plant and an aphid. Our initial studies have exploited an Arabidopsis genotype in which the function of the amino acid transporter ANT1 has been abolished. This mutation results in a change in the proportions of several amino acids within the phloem sieve elements (SEs) resulting in an increase in the proportion of essential amino acids. This has been measured using aphid stylectomy to collect SE samples, followed by a novel micellar electrokinetic chromatography method for amino acid analysis. The SE content represents the aphid's diet, and use of electrical penetration graph technology and honeydew clocks have demonstrated that this altered diet results in a change in the feeding rate of the aphid. Balance sheets can be produced to show the amount (nmoles/24 h) of each of 18 amino acids taken up and excreted by aphids feeding on wild type and ant1 mutant plants. The data show that aphids feeding on the ant1 mutant take up larger amounts of amino acids. However, we could not detect any effect on the reproductive rate of the aphids. The results show that, under experimental conditions, this model system can be used to identify plant genes that control the behaviour and fecundity of an insect pest.
Molecular Ecology – Wiley
Published: Nov 1, 2006
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