Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B
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Pass the bacteria, please
Understanding the transmission of symbiotic bacteria may help researchers thwart the reproduction of whiteflies, a major agricultural pest worldwide.
In many insects, including whiteflies, symbiotic bacteria live in special cells known as bacteriocytes. But, how these bacteria are transmitted from parent to offspring is poorly understood. In some species, the bacteria exit the bacteriocyte before entering the egg, but in whiteflies they are transmitted into the egg within intact bacteriocytes.
To investigate this process, researchers from China’s Zheijang University and Cornell University in New York tracked bacteriocytes through the life of developing whiteflies, from eggs to adults. The team discovered that bacteriocytes change from adhesive clumped cells in young whiteflies to free, mobile cells in adults. The bacteriocytes also shrink and change shape as the animals age.
This finding may help researchers identify targets to disrupt bacteriocyte transmission and impede whitefly reproduction, a boon for gardeners everywhere.
- Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283,20160580 (2017). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0580