Horizontal transfer of bacterial symbionts: Heritability and fitness effects in a novel aphid host

  • Russell J
  • Moran N
  • 21


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • N/A


    Citations of this article.


Members of several bacterial lineages are known only as symbionts of insects and move among hosts through maternal transmission. Such vertical transfer promotes strong fidelity within these associations, favoring the evolution of microbially mediated effects that improve host fitness. However, phylogenetic evidence indicates occasional horizontal transfer among different insect species, suggesting that some microbial symbionts retain a generalized ability to infect multiple hosts. Here we examine the abilities of three vertically transmitted bacteria from the Gammaproteobacteria to infect and spread within a novel host species, the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. Using microinjection, we transferred symbionts from three species of natural aphid hosts into a common host background, comparing transmission efficiencies between novel symbionts and those naturally infecting A. pisum. We also examined the fitness effects of two novel symbionts to determine whether they should persist under natural selection acting at the host level. Our results reveal that these heritable bacteria vary in their capacities to utilize A. pisum as a host. One of three novel symbionts failed to undergo efficient maternal transmission in A. pisum, and one of the two efficiently transmitted bacteria depressed aphid growth rates. Although these findings reveal that negative fitness effects and low transmission efficiency can prevent the establishment of a new infection following horizontal transmission, they also indicate that some symbionts can overcome these obstacles, accounting for their widespread distributions across aphids and related insects. Copyright © 2005, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Animals
  • Aphididae
  • Aphids
  • Bacteria
  • Bacteria (microorganisms)
  • Bacterial lineages
  • Bacterial symbionts
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Environmental impact
  • Female
  • Gammaproteobacteria
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genetic engineering
  • Hexapoda
  • Insecta
  • Maternal transmission
  • Microbiology
  • Microinjection
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Symbiosis
  • acyrthosiphon pisum
  • aphid
  • article
  • bacterial transmission
  • bacterial virulence
  • disease transmission
  • fitness
  • growth rate
  • heritability
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • host range
  • host-pathogen interaction
  • natural selection
  • nonhuman
  • nucleotide sequence
  • phylogeny
  • symbiont
  • vertical transmission

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document


  • J A Russell

  • N A Moran

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free