A critical analysis of the potential for EU Common Agricultural Policy measures to support wild pollinators on farmland
. JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY 2020
Agricultural intensification and associated loss of high-quality habitats are key drivers of insect pollinator declines. With the aim of decreasing the environmental impact of agriculture, the 2014 EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) defined a set of habitat and landscape features (Ecological Focus Areas: EFAs) farmers could select from as a requirement to receive basic farm payments. To inform the post-2020 CAP, we performed a European-scale evaluation to determine how different EFA options vary in their potential to support insect pollinators under standard and pollinator-friendly management, as well as the extent of farmer uptake. A structured Delphi elicitation process engaged 22 experts from 18 European countries to evaluate EFAs options. By considering life cycle requirements of key pollinating taxa (i.e. bumble bees, solitary bees and hoverflies), each option was evaluated for its potential to provide forage, bee nesting sites and hoverfly larval resources. EFA options varied substantially in the resources they were perceived to provide and their effectiveness varied geographically and temporally. For example, field margins provide relatively good forage throughout the season in Southern and Eastern Europe but lacked early-season forage in Northern and Western Europe. Under standard management, no single EFA option achieved high scores across resource categories and a scarcity of late season forage was perceived. Experts identified substantial opportunities to improve habitat quality by adopting pollinator-friendly management. Improving management alone was, however, unlikely to ensure that all pollinator resource requirements were met. Our analyses suggest that a combination of poor management, differences in the inherent pollinator habitat quality and uptake bias towards catch crops and nitrogen-fixing crops severely limit the potential of EFAs to support pollinators in European agricultural landscapes. Policy Implications. To conserve pollinators and help protect pollination services, our expert elicitation highlights the need to create a variety of interconnected, well-managed habitats that complement each other in the resources they offer. To achieve this the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 should take a holistic view to implementation that integrates the different delivery vehicles aimed at protecting biodiversity (e.g. enhanced conditionality, eco-schemes and agri-environment and climate measures). To improve habitat quality we recommend an effective monitoring framework with target-orientated indicators and to facilitate the spatial targeting of options collaboration between land managers should be incentivised.
The Emergence of Insect Odorant Receptor-Based Biosensors
. BIOSENSORS-BASEL 2020
The olfactory receptor neurons of insects and vertebrates are gated by odorant receptor (OR) proteins of which several members have been shown to exhibit remarkable sensitivity and selectivity towards volatile organic compounds of significant importance in the fields of medicine, agriculture and public health. Insect ORs offer intrinsic amplification where a single binding event is transduced into a measurable ionic current. Consequently, insect ORs have great potential as biorecognition elements in many sensor configurations. However, integrating these sensing components onto electronic transducers for the development of biosensors has been marginal due to several drawbacks, including their lipophilic nature, signal transduction mechanism and the limited number of known cognate receptor-ligand pairs. We review the current state of research in this emerging field and highlight the use of a group of indole-sensitive ORs (indolORs) from unexpected sources for the development of biosensors.
Can CRISPR gene drive work in pest and beneficial haplodiploid species?
. EVOLUTIONARY APPLICATIONS 2020
, 2392-2403. DOIAbstract
Gene drives based on CRISPR/Cas9 have the potential to reduce the enormous harm inflicted by crop pests and insect vectors of human disease, as well as to bolster valued species. In contrast with extensive empirical and theoretical studies in diploid organisms, little is known about CRISPR gene drive in haplodiploids, despite their immense global impacts as pollinators, pests, natural enemies of pests, and invasive species in native habitats. Here, we analyze mathematical models demonstrating that, in principle, CRISPR homing gene drive can work in haplodiploids, as well as at sex-linked loci in diploids. However, relative to diploids, conditions favoring the spread of alleles deleterious to haplodiploid pests by CRISPR gene drive are narrower, the spread is slower, and resistance to the drive evolves faster. By contrast, the spread of alleles that impose little fitness cost or boost fitness was not greatly hindered in haplodiploids relative to diploids. Therefore, altering traits to minimize damage caused by harmful haplodiploids, such as interfering with transmission of plant pathogens, may be more likely to succeed than control efforts based on introducing traits that reduce pest fitness. Enhancing fitness of beneficial haplodiploids with CRISPR gene drive is also promising.
Detecting the population dynamics of an autosomal sex ratio distorter transgene in malariavector mosquitoes
. JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY 2020
The development of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes and their subsequent field release offers innovative and cost-effective approaches to reduce mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria. A sex-distorting autosomal transgene has been developed recently in G3 mosquitoes, a laboratory strain of the malaria vectorAnopheles gambiaes.l. The transgene expresses an endonuclease called I-PpoI during spermatogenesis, which selectively cleaves the X chromosome to result in similar to 95% male progeny. Following the World Health Organization guidance framework for the testing of GM mosquitoes, we assessed the dynamics of this transgene in large cages using a joint experimental modelling approach. We performed a 4-month experiment in large, indoor cages to study the population genetics of the transgene. The cages were set up to mimic a simple tropical environment with a diurnal light-cycle, constant temperature and constant humidity. We allowed the generations to overlap to engender a stable age structure in the populations. We constructed a model to mimic the experiments, and used the experimental data to infer the key model parameters. We identified two fitness costs associated with the transgene. First, transgenic adult males have reduced fertility and, second, their female progeny have reduced pupal survival rates. Our results demonstrate that the transgene is likely to disappear in <3 years under our confined conditions. Model predictions suggest this will be true over a wide range of background population sizes and transgene introduction rates. Synthesis and applications. Our study is in line with the World Health Organization guidance recommendations in regard to the development and testing of GM mosquitoes. Since the transgenic sex ratio distorter strain (Ag(PMB)1) has been considered for genetic vector control of malaria, we recorded the dynamics of this transgene in indoor-large cage populations and modelled its post-release persistence under different scenarios. We provide a demonstration of the self-limiting nature of the transgene, and identified new fitness costs that will further reduce the longevity of the transgene after its release. Finally, our study has showcased an alternative and effective statistical method for characterizing the phenotypic expression of a transgene in an insect pest population.
Improved reference genome of the arboviral vector Aedes albopictus
. GENOME BIOLOGY 2020
Background The Asian tiger mosquitoAedes albopictusis globally expanding and has become the main vector for human arboviruses in Europe. With limited antiviral drugs and vaccines available, vector control is the primary approach to prevent mosquito-borne diseases. A reliable and accurate DNA sequence of theAe. albopictusgenome is essential to develop new approaches that involve genetic manipulation of mosquitoes. Results We use long-read sequencing methods and modern scaffolding techniques (PacBio, 10X, and Hi-C) to produce AalbF2, a dramatically improved assembly of theAe. albopictusgenome. AalbF2 reveals widespread viral insertions, novel microRNAs and piRNA clusters, the sex-determining locus, and new immunity genes, and enables genome-wide studies of geographically diverseAe. albopictuspopulations and analyses of the developmental and stage-dependent network of expression data. Additionally, we build the first physical map for this species with 75% of the assembled genome anchored to the chromosomes. Conclusion The AalbF2 genome assembly represents the most up-to-date collective knowledge of theAe. albopictusgenome. These resources represent a foundation to improve understanding of the adaptation potential and the epidemiological relevance of this species and foster the development of innovative control measures.
Inside out: microbiota dynamics during host-plant adaptation of whiteflies
. ISME JOURNAL 2020
While most insect herbivores are selective feeders, a small proportion of them feed on a wide range of plants. This polyphagous habit requires overcoming a remarkable array of defenses, which often necessitates an adaptation period. Efforts for understanding the mechanisms involved mostly focus on the insect's phenotypic plasticity. Here, we hypothesized that the adaptation process might partially rely on transient associations with bacteria. To test this, we followed in a field-like experiment, the adaptation process of Bemisia tabaci, a generalist sap feeder, to pepper (a less-suitable host), after switching from watermelon (a suitable host). Amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA transcripts from hundreds of dissected guts revealed the presence of active ``core'' and ``transient'' bacterial communities, dominated by the phyla Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes, and increasing differences between populations grown on watermelon and pepper. Insects grown on pepper for over two generations presented a significant increase in specific genera, mainly Mycobacterium, with a predicted enrichment in degradative pathways of xenobiotics and secondary metabolites. This result correlated with a significant increase in the insect's survival on pepper. Taken together, our findings suggest that gut-associated bacteria can provide an additional flexible metabolic ``tool-box'' to generalist sap feeders for facilitating a quick host switching process.
Cellular Localization of Two Rickettsia Symbionts in the Digestive System and within the Ovaries of the Mirid Bug, Macrolophous pygmaeus
. INSECTS 2020
Like most insects, those that feed on both prey and plant materials harbor symbiotic bacteria in their body. Yet the involvement of bacteria in the feeding habits of these omnivorous consumers has yet to be investigated. In the present study, we took the first step toward testing the hypothesis that bacterial symbionts are involved in the feeding habits of the omnivorous bugMacrolophus pygmaeus. We (I) characterized the microbiome (the assembly of bacteria and fungi) ofM. pygmaeus, and (II) determined the identity and location of the most dominant bacteria species within the host body. We found thatM. pygmaeusmicrobiome is dominated by twoRickettsiaspecies,R. belliandR. limoniae. These bacteria are found in high numbers in the digestive system of the bug, each exhibiting a unique distribution pattern, and for the most part, do not share the same cells in the gut. These results strongly suggest that the host bug may gain some nutritional benefits by hosting the two dominant symbiotic bacteria in its gut. Bacterial symbionts in arthropods are common, vary in their effects, and can dramatically influence the outcome of biological control efforts.Macrolophus pygmaeus(Heteroptera: Miridae), a key component of biological control programs, is mainly predaceous but may also display phytophagy.M. pygmaeushosts symbioticWolbachia, which induce cytoplasmic incompatibility, and twoRickettsiaspecies,R. belliiandR. limoniae, which are found in all individuals tested. To test possible involvement of the twoRickettsiaspecies in the feeding habits ofM. pygmaeus, we first showed that the microbiome of the insect is dominated by these three symbionts, and later described the distribution pattern of the twoRickettsiaspecies in its digestive system. Although bothRickettsiaspecies were located in certain gut bacteriocyes, in caeca and in Malpighian tubules of both sexes, each species has a unique cellular occupancy pattern and specific distribution along digestive system compartments. Infrequently, both species were found in a cell. In females, bothRickettsiaspecies were detected in the germarium, the apical end of the ovarioles within the ovaries, but not in oocytes. Although the cause for theseRickettsiadistribution patterns is yet unknown, it is likely linked to host nutrition while feeding on prey or plants.
Diel rhythm of volatile emissions of males and females of the peach fruit fly Bactrocera zonata
. JOURNAL OF INSECT PHYSIOLOGY 2020
Fruit flies in the genus Bactrocera are among the most destructive insect pests of fruits and vegetables throughout the world. A number of studies have identified volatiles from fruit flies, but few reports have demonstrated behavioral effects or sensitivities of fly antennae to these compounds. We applied a recently developed method of automated headspace analysis using SPME (Solid Phase Microextraction) fibers and GC MS (gas chromatography mass spectrometry), termed SSGA, to reveal volatiles specific to each sex of B. zonata that are emitted in a diel periodicity. The volatiles released primarily at dusk were identified by GC MS and chemical syntheses as several spiroacetals, pyrazines, and ethyl esters. Solvent extraction of male rectal glands or airborne collections from each sex, followed by GC MS, showed that certain of the volatiles increase or decrease in quantity sex-specifically with age of the flies. Electroantennographic (EAG) analysis of dose-response indicates differences in sensitivities of male and female antenna to the various volatiles. Our study provides a comprehensive analysis of the volatile chemicals produced and released by B. zonata and their antennal responses. The possible pheromone and semiochemical roles of the various volatiles released by each sex and the difficulties of establishing behavioral functions are discussed.
Effect of diet lipids and omega-6:3 ratio on honey bee brood development, adult survival and body composition
. JOURNAL OF INSECT PHYSIOLOGY 2020
Lipids have a key role in a variety of physiological functions in insects including energy, reproduction, growth and development. Whereas most of the required fatty acids can be synthesized endogenously, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are essential fatty acids that must be acquired through nutrition. Honey bees (Apis mellifera) obtain lipids from pollen, but different pollens vary in nutritional composition, including of PUFAs. Low floral diversity and abundance may expose bees to nutritional stress. We tested the effect of total lipids concentration and their omega-6:3 ratio on aspects of honey bee physiology: brood development, adult longevity and body fatty acids composition. All three parameters were affected by dietary lipid concentration and omega-6:3 ratio. Higher lipid concentration in diet increased brood production, and high omega-6:3 ratio increased mortality rate and decreased brood rearing. Fatty acid analysis of the bees showed that the amount of lipids and the omega-6:3 ratio in their body generally reflected the composition of the diet on which they fed. Consistent with previous findings of the importance of a balanced omega-6:3 ratio diet for learning performance, we found that such a balanced PUFA diet, with above threshold total lipid composition, is also necessary for maintaining proper colony development.
Glucosylation prevents plant defense activation in phloem-feeding insects
. NATURE CHEMICAL BIOLOGY 2020
The metabolic adaptations by which phloem-feeding insects counteract plant defense compounds are poorly known. Two-component plant defenses, such as glucosinolates, consist of a glucosylated protoxin that is activated by a glycoside hydrolase upon plant damage. Phloem-feeding herbivores are not generally believed to be negatively impacted by two-component defenses due to their slender piercing-sucking mouthparts, which minimize plant damage. However, here we document that glucosinolates are indeed activated during feeding by the whiteflyBemisia tabaci. This phloem feeder was also found to detoxify the majority of the glucosinolates it ingests by the stereoselective addition of glucose moieties, which prevents hydrolytic activation of these defense compounds. Glucosylation of glucosinolates inB. tabaciwas accomplished via a transglucosidation mechanism, and two glycoside hydrolase family 13 (GH13) enzymes were shown to catalyze these reactions. This detoxification reaction was also found in a range of other phloem-feeding herbivores.
Molecular Evolution of the Glutathione S-Transferase Family in the Bemisia tabaci Species Complex
. GENOME BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION 2020
The glutathione S-transferase (GST) family plays an important role in the adaptation of herbivorous insects to new host plants and other environmental constrains. The family codes for enzymes that neutralize reactive oxygen species and phytotoxins through the conjugation of reduced glutathione. Here, we studied the molecular evolution of the GST family in Bemisia tabaci, a complex of >35 sibling species, differing in their geographic and host ranges. We tested if some enzymes evolved different functionality, by comparing their sequences in six species, representing five of the six major genetic clades in the complex. Comparisons of the non-synonymous to synonymous substitution ratios detected positive selection events in 11 codons of 5 cytosolic GSTs. Ten of them are located in the periphery of the GST dimer, suggesting a putative involvement in interactions with other proteins. Modeling the tertiary structure of orthologous enzymes, identified additional 19 mutations in 9 GSTs, likely affecting the enzymes' functionality. Most of the mutation eventswere found in the environmentally responsive classes Delta and Sigma, indicating a slightly different delta/sigma tool box in each species. At a broader genomic perspective, our analyses indicated a significant expansion of the Delta GST class in B. tabaci and a general association between the diet breadth of hemipteran species and their total number of GST genes. We raise the possibility that at least some of the identified changes improve the fitness of the B. tabaci species carrying them, leading to their better adaptation to specific environments.
A fly model establishes distinct mechanisms for synthetic CRISPR/Cas9 sex distorters
. PLOS GENETICS 2020
Author summary Harmful insect populations can be eliminated for a lack of females if they are made to produce mostly male offspring. There are genes that occur naturally that make males produce mostly sons and, although we don't know exactly how they work, this appears to coincide with damage to the X-chromosome during the production of sperm. Recently, we showed in a mosquito species that such sex-biasing genes could also be constructed artificially from first principles. To better understand if this works in other species too, we designed and built male-biasing genes of two types in the fruit fly and determined what is needed to for a shift towards males. We show how different ways of cutting the X-chromosome DNA at different times with CRISPR, results in distinct outcomes and started to ask what cellular processes are involved in this. These models will help us to design such genes for the control of insect species that transmit disease or threaten crops. Synthetic sex distorters have recently been developed in the malaria mosquito, relying on endonucleases that target the X-chromosome during spermatogenesis. Although inspired by naturally-occurring traits, it has remained unclear how they function and, given their potential for genetic control, how portable this strategy is across species. We established Drosophila models for two distinct mechanisms for CRISPR/Cas9 sex-ratio distortion-''X-shredding'' and ``X-poisoning''-and dissected their target-site requirements and repair dynamics. X-shredding resulted in sex distortion when Cas9 endonuclease activity occurred during the meiotic stages of spermatogenesis but not when Cas9 was expressed from the stem cell stages onwards. Our results suggest that X-shredding is counteracted by the NHEJ DNA repair pathway and can operate on a single repeat cluster of non-essential sequences, although the targeting of a number of such repeats had no effect on the sex ratio. X-poisoning by contrast, i.e. targeting putative haplolethal genes on the X chromosome, induced a high bias towards males (>92%) when we directed Cas9 cleavage to the X-linked ribosomal target gene RpS6. In the case of X-poisoning sex distortion was coupled to a loss in reproductive output, although a dominant-negative effect appeared to drive the mechanism of female lethality. These model systems will guide the study and the application of sex distorters to medically or agriculturally important insect target species.
Portiera Gets Wild: Genome Instability Provides Insights into the Evolution of Both Whiteflies and Their Endosymbion
. GENOME BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION 2020
Whiteflies (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Aleyrodidae) are a superfamily of small phloem-feeding insects. They rely on their primary endosymbionts ``Candidatus Portiera aleyrodidarum'' to produce essential amino acids not present in their diet. Portiera has been codiverging with whiteflies since their origin and therefore reflects its host's evolutionary history. Like in most primary endosymbionts, the genome of Portiera stays stable across the Aleyrodidae superfamily after millions of years of codivergence. However, Portiera of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci has lost the ancestral genome order, reflecting a rare event in the endosymbiont evolution: the appearance of genome instability. To gain a better understanding of Portiera genome evolution, identify the time point in which genome instability appeared and contribute to the reconstruction of whitefly phylogeny, we developed a new phylogenetic framework. It targeted five Portiera genes and determined the presence of the DNA polymerase proofreading subunit (dnaQ) gene, previously associated with genome instability, and two alternative gene rearrangements. Our results indicated that Portiera gene sequences provide a robust tool for studying intergenera phylogenetic relationships in whiteflies. Using these new framework, we found that whitefly species from the Singhiella, Aleurolobus, and Bemisia genera form a monophyletic tribe, the Aleurolobini, and that their Portiera exhibit genome instability. This instability likely arose once in the common ancestor of the Aleurolobini tribe (at least 70 Ma), drawing a link between the appearance of genome instability in Portiera and the switch from multibacteriocyte to a single-bacteriocyte mode of inheritance in this tribe.
Rangeland sharing by cattle and bees: moderate grazing does not impair bee communities and resource availability
. ECOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS 2020
Rangelands are a dominant anthropogenic land use and a main driver of natural habitat loss worldwide. Land sharing, the integration of agricultural production and biodiversity conservation, may provide a platform for managing rangelands to fulfill multiple ecosystem services. However, livestock grazing can greatly affect biodiversity and little is known about its effects on providers of focal ecosystem services, such as pollinators. We investigated the effect of cattle grazing on bee communities and their foraging and nesting resources in Mediterranean rangelands. Specifically, we explored the effect of moderate cattle grazing on flowering plant abundance, species richness and composition, the diversity of nesting substrates, and consequently, the possible effects on wild bee and honey bee foraging activity, species diversity, and community composition. We conducted field research in the Mediterranean rangelands of Israel during the main bee activity season, in the spring of 2012 and 2013, comparing paired cattle-grazed and ungrazed areas. The availability of floral and nesting resources for bees was unaffected or positively affected by grazing. Similarly, wild bee abundance, species richness, and composition were not affected by grazing, but were instead shaped by spatiotemporal factors. Nor was honey bee activity level impaired by grazing. The foraging preferences of bees, as well as flower species composition and peak bloom differed between grazed and ungrazed areas. Therefore, in our studied rangelands, grazing had its main effect on the foraging choices of honey bees and wild bees, rather than on their abundance and diversity. Moreover, our results indicate the potentially important role of ungrazed patches in increasing nectar and pollen diversity and availability in rangelands for both honey bees and wild bees in the spring. Hence, maintaining a mosaic of moderately grazed and ungrazed patches is expected to provide the greatest benefits for wild bee conservation and honey bee activity in Mediterranean rangelands. Our findings support the notion of rangeland sharing by cattle and bees in Mediterranean ecosystems under moderate grazing intensities, mimicking the coexistence of honey bees, wild bees, and cattle in Mediterranean ecosystems on an evolutionary timescale.
Siliplant1 protein precipitates silica in sorghum silica cells
. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY 2020
Silicon is absorbed by plant roots as silicic acid. The acid moves with the transpiration stream to the shoot, and mineralizes as silica. In grasses, leaf epidermal cells called silica cells deposit silica in most of their volume using an unknown biological factor. Using bioinformatics tools, we identified a previously uncharacterized protein in Sorghum bicolor, which we named Siliplant1 (Slp1). Slp1 is a basic protein with seven repeat units rich in proline, lysine, and glutamic acid. We found Slp1 RNA in sorghum immature leaf and immature inflorescence. In leaves, transcription was highest just before the active silicification zone (ASZ). There, Slp1 was localized specifically to developing silica cells, packed inside vesicles and scattered throughout the cytoplasm or near the cell boundary. These vesicles fused with the membrane, releasing their content in the apoplastic space. A short peptide that is repeated five times in Slp1 precipitated silica in vitro at a biologically relevant silicic acid concentration. Transient overexpression of Slp1 in sorghum resulted in ectopic silica deposition in all leaf epidermal cell types. Our results show that Slp1 precipitates silica in sorghum silica cells.
Diel rhythm of volatile emissions of males and females of the peach fruit fly Bactrocera zonata
. Journal of Insect Physiology 2020
. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Fruit flies in the genus Bactrocera are among the most destructive insect pests of fruits and vegetables throughout the world. A number of studies have identified volatiles from fruit flies, but few reports have demonstrated behavioral effects or sensitivities of fly antennae to these compounds. We applied a recently developed method of automated headspace analysis using SPME (Solid Phase Microextraction) fibers and GC–MS (gas chromatography mass spectrometry), termed SSGA, to reveal volatiles specific to each sex of B. zonata that are emitted in a diel periodicity. The volatiles released primarily at dusk were identified by GC–MS and chemical syntheses as several spiroacetals, pyrazines, and ethyl esters. Solvent extraction of male rectal glands or airborne collections from each sex, followed by GC–MS, showed that certain of the volatiles increase or decrease in quantity sex-specifically with age of the flies. Electroantennographic (EAG) analysis of dose-response indicates differences in sensitivities of male and female antenna to the various volatiles. Our study provides a comprehensive analysis of the volatile chemicals produced and released by B. zonata and their antennal responses. The possible pheromone and semiochemical roles of the various volatiles released by each sex and the difficulties of establishing behavioral functions are discussed. © 2019 Elsevier Ltd