Phloem Metabolites of Prunus Sp. Rather than Infection with Candidatus Phytoplasma Prunorum Influence Feeding Behavior of Cacopsylla pruni Nymphs
Phytoplasmas are specialized small bacteria restricted to the phloem tissue and spread by hemipterans feeding on plant sieve tube elements. As for many other plant pathogens, it is known that phytoplasmas alter the chemistry of their hosts. Most research on phytoplasma-plant interactions focused on the induction of plant volatiles and phytohormones. Little is known about the influence of phytoplasma infections on the nutritional composition of phloem and consequences on vector behavior and development. The plum psyllid Cacopsylla pruni transmits ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma prunorum’, the causing agent of European Stone Fruit Yellows (ESFY). While several Prunus species are susceptible for psyllid feeding, they show different responses to the pathogen. We studied the possible modulation of plant-insect interactions by bacteria-induced changes in phloem sap chemistry. Therefore, we sampled phloem sap from phytoplasma-infected and non-infected Prunus persica and Prunus insititia plants, which differ in their susceptibility to ESFY and psyllid feeding. Furthermore, the feeding behavior and development of C. pruni nymphs was compared on infected and non-infected P. persica and P. insititia plants. Phytoplasma infection did not affect phloem consumption by C. pruni nymphs nor their development time. In contrast, the study revealed significant differences between P. insititia and P. persica in terms of both phloem chemistry and feeding behavior of C. pruni nymphs. Phloem feeding phases were four times longer on P. insititia than on P. persica, resulting in a decreased development time and higher mortality of vector insects on P. persica plants. These findings explain the low infestation rates of peach cultivars with plum psyllids commonly found in field surveys.