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Oligosaccharide synthesis regulates gut osmolality in the ant-attended aphid Metopeurum fuscoviride but not in the unattended aphid Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria


Author's address: J. Woodring (corresponding author), Department of Animal Ecology I, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany. E-mail:


Abstract:  An artificial phloem sap (APS) for Metopeurum fuscoviride and Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria, based on analysis of their host plant, Tanacetum vulgare, phloem sap, contained 308 μg/μl (900 μmol/μl) sucrose (and no other sugars) and a mixture of 14 amino acids with a total concentration of 82.5 nmol/μl. There was no significant difference in the total amino acid concentration of the honeydew of adult M. fuscoviride fed on the host plant and aphids fed on APS. Incubation of isolated guts in APS indicated no role of gut bacteria or gut enzymes on the amino acid pattern in the gut. The sugar composition of the honeydew of the ant-attended M. fuscoviride indicated a rapid digestion of sucrose into glucose and fructose, and the simultaneous synthesis of considerable amounts of melezitose and some trehalose. The sugar composition of the honeydew of the unattended M. tanacetaria in contrast showed only traces of trehalose and melezitose, but up to 20% erlose in plant-fed aphids. Incubation of isolated guts of M. fuscoviride in APS demonstrated a steady high rate of melezitose synthesis by gut enzymes over an 8-h period. Incubation of isolated guts of M. tanacetaria on the other hand demonstrated only a moderate rate of erlose synthesis and no detectable melezitose or trehalose. Melezitose in the aphid M. fuscoviride is a signal sugar for ants (ecological function), indicating the presence of abundant sugar rich honeydew [Woodring et al. (2004)Physiol. Entomol., vol. 29, pp. 311–319]. It was estimated that melezitose reduces the gut osmolality of M. fuscoviride to approximately 25–35% of what it would be without the synthetases (physiological function). M. tanacetaria on the other hand produces very little honeydew, is not attended by ants, and thus there is little need to synthesize large amounts of oligosaccharides to attract ants or for osmoregulation.

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