Symbiosis allows an insect access to unbalanced food sources on which other organisms cannot survive. A bacterial endosymbiont, Buchnera aphidicola, gives aphids the ability to feed on phloem depleted of certain essential amino acids by producing those required. Pseudogenes and lower plasmid copy numbers of essential amino acid genes in B. aphidicola, endosymbiont of the Russian wheat aphid, Diuraphis noxia (Kurdjumov) (Hemiptera: Aphididae), suggest that this symbiotic relationship is degenerating. The complete endosymbiont assemblages, copy numbers of plasmids (important in essential amino acid production), and sequence variation in B. aphidicola, from 10 Russian wheat aphid biotypes, were investigated. B. aphidicola was found to be monosymbiotic in the Russian wheat aphid biotypes and other Diuraphis species examined. An insert, occurring in an inverted repeat region on the leucine plasmid, was the only variation found in the ≈10-kb B. aphidicola sequence analyzed from each Russian wheat aphid biotype. This inverted repeat was shown previously to be conserved within the family Aphididae. The insert occurred in B. aphidicola sequences isolated from four Russian wheat aphid biotypes. Copy numbers of the leucine plasmid differ between the South African and U.S. biotypes and were similar to previously reported values for biotypes from the same geographic regions. These results suggest that B. aphidicola may still contribute to Russian wheat aphid fitness when the aphid feeds on a variety of hosts.
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Vol. 103 • No. 3