Interaction of Phthorimaea operculella granulovirus with a Nosema sp. microsporidium in larvae of Phthorimaea operculella
An antagonistic effect of a microsporidium (Nosema sp.) infection on the virulence of Phthorimaea operculella granulovirus (PhopGV) was recorded in potato tuber moth (Phthorimaea operculella) larvae with mixed infections. When the P. operculella colony was infected at a high rate (42.8–100%) with the microsporidium, it was less susceptible to the isolate PhopGV-GR1.1. A virus concentration 1.89×105 higher was necessary to cause the same level of mortality produced in the P. operculella colony when it was uninfected or had a low level of infection with the microsporidium (0–30%). This antagonistic effect was driven by a Nosema isolate (termed Nosema sp. Phop) that was purified from microsporidian-infected P. operculella individuals. The purified microsporidium was characterised by morphological features, including size, filament coils and different developmental stages using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). On the molecular level, the partial cistron rDNA information of the small ribosomal subunit (SSU), internal transcribed spacer (ITS), and the large ribosomal subunit (LSU) were identified. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that the newly described microsporidium belongs to the “true Nosema” clade. Partial sequence information of the RNA polymerase II largest subunit (RPB1) suggested that Nosema bombycis is the closest relative (98% identity). The morphological and phylogenetic characteristics suggest that it is an isolate of N. bombycis. Interactions of microsporidia and betabaculoviruses are rarely described in the literature, although mixed infections of different pathogens seem to be rather common events, ranging from antagonistic to mutualistic interactions. The observed antagonistic relationship between the Nosema sp. and PhopGV-GR1.1 showed that pathogen interactions need to be considered when single pathogens are applied to insect populations in the context of biological control of insect pests.
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