It is well known that microbial pathogens and herbivores elicit defence responses in plants. Moreover, microorganisms associated with herbivores, such as bacteria or viruses, can modulate the plant’s response to herbivores. Herbivorous spider mites can harbour different species of bacterial symbionts and exert a broad range of effects on host-plant defences. Hence, we tested the extent to which such symbionts affect the plant’s defences induced by their mite host and assessed if this translates into changes in plant resistance. We assessed the bacterial communities of two strains of the common mite pest Tetranychus urticae. We found that these strains harboured distinct symbiotic bacteria and removed these using antibiotics. Subsequently, we tested to which extent mites with and without symbiotic bacteria induce plant defences in terms of phytohormone accumulation and defence gene expression, and assessed mite oviposition and survival as a measure for plant resistance. We observed that the absence/presence of these bacteria altered distinct plant defence parameters and affected mite performance but we did not find indications for a causal link between the two. We argue that although bacteria-related effects on host-induced plant defences may occur, these do not necessarily affect plant resistance concomitantly.

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International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Staudacher, H. (Heike), Schimmel, B.C.J. (Bernardus C. J.), Lamers, M.M. (Mart M.), Wybouw, N. (Nicky), Groot, A.T. (Astrid T.), & Kant, M.R. (Merijn R.). (2017). Independent effects of a herbivore’s bacterial symbionts on its performance and induced plant defences. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(1). doi:10.3390/ijms18010182