Microbial Ecology

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 472–482 | Cite as

Differential Responses of the Whitefly Bemisia tabaci Symbionts to Unfavorable Low and High Temperatures

  • Hong-Wei Shan
  • Yu-Heng Lu
  • Xiao-Li Bing
  • Shu-Sheng Liu
  • Yin-Quan Liu
Environmental Microbiology


The whitefly Bemisia tabaci complex contains many cryptic species, of which the Middle East-Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) and Mediterranean (MED) are notorious invasive pests. In our field-collected whitefly samples, MEAM1 harbors an obligate primary symbiont “Candidatus Portiera aleyrodidarum” and two secondary symbionts, “Candidatus Hamiltonella defensa” and Rickettsia sp., whereas MED has only “Ca. Portiera aleyrodidarum” and “Ca. Hamiltonella defensa.” Both “Ca. Portiera aleyrodidarum” and “Ca. Hamiltonella defensa” are intracellular endosymbionts residing in the bacteriomes, whereas Rickettsia sp. has a scattered distribution throughout the host body cavity. We examined responses of these symbionts to adverse temperatures as well as survival of the host insects. After cold treatment at 5 or 10 °C or heat treatment at 35 or 40 °C for 24 h, respectively, the infection rates of all symbionts were not significantly decreased based on diagnosis PCR. However, quantitative PCR assays indicated significant reduction of “Ca. Hamiltonella defensa” at 40 °C, and the reduction became greater as the duration increased. Compared with “Ca. Hamiltonella defensa,” “Ca. Portiera aleyrodidarum” was initially less affected in the first day but then showed more rapid reduction at days 3–5. The density of Rickettsia sp. fluctuated but was not reduced significantly at 40 °C. Meanwhile, the mortality rates of the host whiteflies elevated rapidly as the duration of exposure to heat treatment increased. The differential responses of various symbionts to adverse temperatures imply complex interactions among the symbionts inside the same host insect and highlight the importance of taking the whole bacterial community into account in studies of symbioses.



The authors thank Jie Li and Yun-Qin Li for technical advice and assistance. The authors are also grateful to the five anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that have helped to improve the paper. This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Projects no. 31390421 and 31321063).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hong-Wei Shan
    • 1
  • Yu-Heng Lu
    • 1
  • Xiao-Li Bing
    • 1
  • Shu-Sheng Liu
    • 1
  • Yin-Quan Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.Ministry of Agriculture Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology, Institute of Insect SciencesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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