Table_1_Bacteriocyte Reprogramming to Cope With Nutritional Stress in a Phloem Sap Feeding Hemipteran, the Pea Aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum.XLSX
Nutritional symbioses play a central role in the ability of insects to thrive on unbalanced diets and in ensuring their evolutionary success. A genomic model for nutritional symbiosis comprises the hemipteran Acyrthosiphon pisum, and the gamma-3-proteobacterium, Buchnera aphidicola, with genomes encoding highly integrated metabolic pathways. A. pisum feeds exclusively on plant phloem sap, a nutritionally unbalanced diet highly variable in composition, thus raising the question of how this symbiotic system responds to nutritional stress. We addressed this by combining transcriptomic, phenotypic and life history trait analyses to determine the organismal impact of deprivation of tyrosine and phenylalanine. These two aromatic amino acids are essential for aphid development, are synthesized in a metabolic pathway for which the aphid host and the endosymbiont are interdependent, and their concentration can be highly variable in plant phloem sap. We found that this nutritional challenge does not have major phenotypic effects on the pea aphid, except for a limited weight reduction and a 2-day delay in onset of nymph laying. Transcriptomic analyses through aphid development showed a prominent response in bacteriocytes (the core symbiotic tissue which houses the symbionts), but not in gut, thus highlighting the role of bacteriocytes as major modulators of this homeostasis. This response does not involve a direct regulation of tyrosine and phenylalanine biosynthetic pathway and transporter genes. Instead, we observed an extensive transcriptional reprogramming of the bacteriocyte with a rapid down-regulation of genes encoding sugar transporters and genes required for sugar metabolism. Consistently, we observed continued overexpression of the A. pisum homolog of RRAD, a small GTPase implicated in repressing aerobic glycolysis. In addition, we found increased transcription of genes involved in proliferation, cell size control and signaling. We experimentally confirmed the significance of these gene expression changes detecting an increase in bacteriocyte number and cell size in vivo under tyrosine and phenylalanine depletion. Our results support a central role of bacteriocytes in the aphid response to amino acid deprivation: their transcriptional and cellular responses fine-tune host physiology providing the host insect with an effective way to cope with the challenges posed by the variability in composition of phloem sap.