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Why some aphids can't stand the heat

tated promoter reproduced faster at the temperatures, 60-68 F (15 - 20 C), at which aphids are maintained in the lab.

Results from wild aphids suggest the genetic makeup of a pea aphid's bacteria depends on climate. Bacteria from Tucson aphids all had heat-tolerant promoters. Bacteria from Michigan or New York state aphids were five to seven times more likely to have the heat-intolerant, mutated promoter.

The two promoters are barely different -- the heat-sensitive version has 10 adenine molecules in a row, and the other has 11.

"The presence or absence of one (adenine) has a huge effect on how well the host does, how well it can survive and reproduce at different temperatures," Moran said.

When a bacterial cell reproduces, a new DNA molecule is copied from the original. But the many adenine molecules in a row makes it easier for a mistake to delete or insert an adenine, causing a mutation, Moran said.

Pea aphids, native to Europe, are now found worldwide. Many other species of insects have similar symbiotic relationships with bacteria. Such easy-to-arise mutations in symbiotic bacteria could explain how some insect pests can expand into new environments, Moran and Dunbar said.

Moran's next step is working with researchers in Wisconsin to see how the bacterial gene variants affect aphids in the field.


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Contact: Mari N. Jensen
mnjensen@email.arizona.edu
520-626-9635
University of Arizona
19-Apr-2007


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