Abstract: Many pathogens and parasites are present in host individuals and populations without any obvious signs of disease. This is particularly true for baculoviruses infecting lepidopteran hosts, where studies have shown that covert persistent viral infections are almost ubiquitous in many species. To date, the infection intensity of covert viruses has rarely been quantified. In this study, we investigated the dynamics of a covert baculovirus infection within the lepidopteran crop pest Spodoptera exempta. A real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) procedure using a 5' nuclease hydrolysis (TaqMan) probe was developed for specific detection and quantification of Spodoptera exempta nucleopolyhedrovirus (SpexNPV). The qPCR assay indicated that covert baculovirus dynamics varied considerably over the course of the host life-cycle, with infection load peaking in early larval instars and being lowest in adults and final-instar larvae. Adult dissections indicated that, contrary to expectation, viral load aggregation was highest in the head, wings and legs, and lowest in the thorax and abdomen. The data presented here have broad implications relating to our understanding of transmission patterns of baculoviruses and the role of covert infections in host-pathogen dynamics.
Abstract: Recent research has demonstrated extensive within-species variation in pheromone expression in insect species, contrary to the view that pheromones are largely invariant within species. In fact, many studies on insect cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) show that pheromones can be highly dynamic traits that can express significant short-term plasticity across both abiotic and social environments. It is likely that this variability in CHC expression contributes to their important role in sexual signaling and mate choice. In this review, I discuss CHC plasticity and how this might influence sexual communication. I also highlight two important avenues for future research: examining plasticity in how individuals respond to CHC signals, and testing how sexual communication varies across abiotic and social environments.
Abstract: Many parasites enhance their dispersal and transmission by manipulating host behaviour. One intriguing example concerns baculoviruses that induce hyperactivity and tree-top disease (i.e., climbing to elevated positions prior to death) in their caterpillar hosts. Little is known about the underlying mechanisms of such parasite-induced behavioural changes. Here, we studied the role of the ecdysteroid UDP-glucosyltransferase (egt) gene of Spodoptera exigua multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (SeMNPV) in tree-top disease in S. exigua larvae. Larvae infected with a mutant virus lacking the egt gene exhibited a shorter time to death and died before the induction of tree-top disease. Moreover, deletion of either the open reading frame or the ATG start codon of the egt gene prevented tree-top disease, indicating that the EGT protein is involved in this process. We hypothesize that SeMNPV EGT facilitates tree-top disease in S. exigua larvae by prolonging the larval time to death. Additionally, we discuss the role of egt in baculovirus-induced tree-top disease.
Abstract: Whiteflies of the Bemisia tabaci (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) cryptic species complex are among the most important agricultural insect pests in the world. These phloem-feeding insects can colonize over 1000 species of plants worldwide and inflict severe economic losses to crops, mainly through the transmission of pathogenic viruses. Surprisingly, there is very little genomic information about whiteflies. As a starting point to genome sequencing, we report a new estimation of the genome size of the B. tabaci B biotype or Middle East-Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) population. Using an isogenic whitefly colony with over 6500 haploid male individuals for genomic DNA, three paired-end genomic libraries with insert sizes of ~300 bp, 500 bp and 1 Kb were constructed and sequenced on an Illumina HiSeq 2500 system. A total of ~50 billion base pairs of sequences were obtained from each library. K-mer analysis using these sequences revealed that the genome size of the whitefly was ~682.3 Mb. In addition, the flow cytometric analysis estimated the haploid genome size of the whitefly to be ~690 Mb. Considering the congruency between both estimation methods, we predict the haploid genome size of B. tabaci MEAM1 to be ~680–690 Mb. Our data provide a baseline for ongoing efforts to assemble and annotate the B. tabaci genome.
Abstract: We studied the usefulness of wood- and cellulose-based diets for L. africanus Lesne. Three diets were prepared which differed on the base ingredients; wood particles (Diet 1), cellulose powder (Diet 2), and alpha-cellulose (Diet 3). The diets were provided to adult L. africanus and the number of larvae, as well as the number of adults that emerged sex ratio, and body weight of the progeny was determined. Findings indicated similar results for the number of larvae, sex ratio and body weight of the emerged L. africanus fed on each diet. However, the number of adult produced by L. africanus on Diet 3 was significantly lower. The results indicate that the amount of vital nutrients is not the only important factor in selecting a suitable diet for L. africanus because the filler used in artificial diets influences the beetles overall population growth. For the population upon which the diets were tested, Diet 1 and Diet 2 could be utilized to rear beetles in the laboratory.