Olfactory Specialization in Drosophila suzukii Supports an Ecological Shift in Host Preference from Rotten to Fresh Fruit
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It has been demonstrated that Drosophila suzukii is capable of attacking ripening fruit, making it a unique species within a fly family named for their attraction towards the fermentation products associated with rotten fruits, vinegar, and yeast. It also has been hypothesized that D. suzukii is more attracted to the volatiles associated with the earlier ripening stages of fruit development, and in turn, that D. suzukii is less attracted to fermented food resources, especially when compared with D. melanogaster. Here, we demonstrate that D. suzukii and its close relative D. biarmipes are in fact more sensitive to volatiles associated with the fruit-ripening process; however, in choice-assays, both spotted-wing species are more attracted to fermented fruit than to earlier stages of fruit development, which is similar to the behavioral preferences of D. melanogaster, and thus, fruit developmental stage alone does not explain the ecological niche observed for D. suzukii. In contrast, we show that both D. suzukii and D. biarmipes are more attracted to leaf odors than D. melanogaster in behavioral trials. For D. suzukii, this differential behavioral preference towards leaves appears to be linked to β-cyclocitral, a volatile isoprenoid that we show is most likely a novel ligand for the “ab3A” neuron. In addition, this compound is not detected by either of the other two tested fly species.
KeywordsOlfaction Chemical ecology Neuroethology Specialization Drosophila Insect behavior
Like most insects, the members of the genus Drosophila rely on olfactory information to follow navigational cues associated with suitable feeding and oviposition sites. These odor cues often are connected to a distinct ecological niche for a particular Drosophila species, with subsequent evolutionary adaptations to the olfactory system that further support and enhance the identification of, and navigation towards, these chemically distinct habitats. Several species of Drosophila have been studied according to their species-specific neuroethology, including D. sechellia (Dekker et al., 2006; Stensmyr et al., 2003), D. erecta (Linz et al., 2013), and D. mojavensis (Date et al., 2013). However, none have been more extensively examined than D. melanogaster, which is the molecular and genetic model for olfactory research (De Bruyne et al., 2001; Hallem and Carlson, 2006; Knaden et al., 2012).
Currently, an outbreak of a new insect, Drosophila suzukii (Matsumura) has spread across much of North America (Lee et al. 2011, 2012), as well as Europe (Calabria et al. 2012). This new Drosophila species has presented a novel opportunity to advance the integrated pest management (IPM) efforts to control it. In addition, it has provided an opportunity to compare the evolutionary neuroethology that propels one fly species towards world-wide pest status, while the other members of the same genus are not of great agricultural or economic concern. The main reason for D. suzukii quickly rising to become a large-scale agricultural problem involves its ability and preference towards attacking and damaging fresh, ripe fruit that is often still attached to the host plant. This is opposed to the model organism, D. melanogaster, as well as most of the other studied members of the genus Drosophila, which are known to have a preference for overripe, rotten, or fermenting fruit, as well as yeast. In contrast to the other studied Drosophila species, the adults of D. suzukii inflict economic damage in a wide number of fruit industries, including cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. In addition, one of the major morphological adaptations noted for D. suzukii is an enlarged and heavily sclerotized ovipositor, which it can use in a saw-like motion to penetrate fresh fruit and insert single eggs below the fruit surface (Atallah et al., 2014).
Several research efforts already have been made to trap and monitor D. suzukii, many of which have met with some success by using common fermentation baits, such as components of yeast, vinegar, or wine (Basoalto et al., 2013; Cha et al., 2013; Landolt et al., 2012; Lee et al. 2012); however, none of these trapping studies have identified a trapping system that is more attractive to D. suzukii than any of its other similar Drosophila relatives, thus making sorting and counting trapped flies difficult if not impossible for those involved in IPM efforts.
Thus, in order to identify important evolutionary shifts in olfaction, the antennae and large basiconic sensillae of D. suzukii have been compared to the well-studied D. melanogaster olfactory system. Additionally, a third species, D. biarmipes, which is the closest relative of D. suzukii that has its genome sequenced and that also possesses an understudied ecology, was further selected for the comparison of host preference shifts across this genus. Our research goals here were two-fold, directed first towards understanding the neuroethology that makes these three fly species unique in their host preference, and second, towards enhancing the generation of an effective, species-specific monitoring tool to assist in protecting a diverse array of agricultural ecosystems from economic damage.
Methods and Materials
Our D. suzukii (14023–0311.01) and D. biarmipes (14023–0361.10) wild-type flies were both obtained from the UCSD Drosophila Stock Center (www.stockcenter.ucsd.edu). All experiments with wild-type D. melanogaster were carried out with Canton-S (stock #1), which were obtained from the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center (www.flystocks.bio.indiana.edu). Stocks were maintained according to Stokl et al. (2010), and for all experiments we used 2–7 d -old flies of both sexes. No differences were noted between the sexes in regard to physiology or behavior, and thus, the data were pooled.
Stimuli and Chemical Analysis
All synthetic odorants that were tested were acquired from commercial sources (Sigma, www.sigmaaldrich.com and Bedoukian, www.bedoukian.com) and were of the highest purity available. Stimuli preparation and delivery followed Stokl et al. (2010), and the headspace collection of volatiles was carried out according to standard procedures. GC/MS analyses were performed on all volatile collections as described previously (Stensmyr et al., 2012), and NIST mass-spectral library identifications were confirmed with the injection of chemical standards.
Behavioral Assays and Electrophysiology
Trap experiments were performed as previously described for individual compounds (Date et al., 2013; Knaden et al., 2012), but without pipette tip entrances to the trap (as D. suzukii adults were too large to enter) and instead an additional 200 μl of light mineral oil (Sigma-Aldrich, 330779-1 L) was used to capture and drown flies upon entrance to the container. All behavioral traps consisted of 60 ml plastic containers (Rotilabo sterile screw cap, Carl Roth GmbH, EA77.1), with one trap used as a blank control and the other containing the treatment odor. In experiments with whole fruit, each stage was placed individually in traps that were presented simultaneously, and a larger arena was used (http://bugdorm.megaview.com.tw/index.php, BugDorm-44545 F). GC/EAD and GC/SSR measurements were performed as described previously (Stensmyr et al., 2012). All dilutions were prepared in hexane, and all behavioral trials were conducted with compounds diluted to 10−3 unless otherwise noted. Statistics were performed using GraphPad InStat version 3.10 at both α = 0.05 and α = 0.01 levels. No differences were noted between the sexes in regard to physiology or behavior, and thus, the data were pooled.
Assessment and Comparison of Large Basiconic Sensillae
Stages of Fruit Development
Attraction Towards Leaf Tissue
β-Cyclocitral Detected by OSNs Housed Within the “ab3” Sensillum
The closest matching response profile for the D. suzukii OSN associated with the SSR response towards β-cyclocitral was “ab3A”, which houses the Or22a neuron in D. melanogaster (Fig. 1c). Here, we showed that “ab3A” in both D. suzukii and D. biarmipes has a diminished response to the fermentation odors methyl and ethyl hexanoate (the best ligands for Or22a in D. melanogaster), and when compared to D. melanogaster in behavioral trials, both spotted-wing Drosophila were less attracted to ethyl hexanoate (Fig. 3b). While the OSN(s) in D. biarmipes that are responsible for the detection of the leaf compounds E-2-nonenol and 2-nitrophenol have not yet been identified, we show that in D. suzukii the “ab3A” neuron is responsible for the detection of β-cyclocitral, a novel ligand associated with the leaf tissue of its host plants (Fig. 3e).
While the majority of the Drosophila species within the melanogaster clade have been shown to be most attracted by the fermentation byproducts of decaying fruit material as well as from the associated yeast, several other feeding and oviposition niches have been documented within the family Drosophilidae, including several species of fly that are ecologically-bound to leaf tissue. A prime example of this ecological specialization is Scaptomyza flava and S. nigrita, both of which are members of an herbivorous leaf-mining lineage within Drosophilidae, where adult females use their sclerotized ovipositor to puncture the leaf surface in order to feed and lay eggs within their host plant (Whiteman et al., 2011). Perhaps, as an evolutionary intermediate host between rotten fruit and living leaves, some Drosophilids are attracted to fermenting plant or leaf tissue, such as the ecological system of D. mojavensis, a group of flies that specializes on fermenting cactus photosynthetic tissue, as opposed to specializing on the fruit of its host (Date et al., 2013). It also has been shown that some Drosophila are attracted to tree sap, such as D. virilis (Carson and Stalker, 1951) as well as D. pseudoobscura (Dobzhansky and Queal, 1938), or have been observed to feed on leaves within the canopy, such as D. obscura and D. subobscura (Begon, 1975; Shorrocks 1975).
Thus, the D. suzukii association with leaf volatiles that we document here is not the first reported case of this type of behavioral adaptation within Drosophilidae. However, it is new in the regard that the attractive volatiles do not emanate directly from the oviposition source itself, but rather they may serve as a signal of the existence of ripening fruits nearby. This is supported by the fact that we show that developing fruit do not produce dramatic olfactory cues that are detected by D. suzukii until the onset of the blush red phase of fruit development (GC/EAD data not shown). Although the three species differ in their sensitivity regarding the detection of fruit-ripening dependent volatiles, with D. suzukii and D. biarmipes being more sensitive than D. melanogaster, this difference is not reflected in any species-specific behavioral preference towards different ripening stages of the fruit, nor does the fruit odor alone explain the preference of D. suzukii to attack fresh, as opposed to overripe or rotten substrates. However, the attraction towards leaf tissue likely explains their reported presence in the plant canopy during the developmental stages of the fruit (Mitsui et al., 2006; Poyet et al., 2014), and it also is probably linked to the subsequent attack on fresh fruit by D. suzukii for feeding and oviposition. The olfactory sensitivity of D. suzukii towards leaf tissue likely plays a role in this fly species identifying and attacking early stages of fruit ripening, perhaps due to an increased proximity of the adult flies within the foliage or canopy, prior to or during fruit ripening stages, that are suitable for feeding and oviposition (Fig. 3e). In addition, several publications already have demonstrated that D. suzukii is more likely to oviposit on fruit that is within the leaf canopy of the host plant, as opposed to fallen fruit that is separated from the leaves (Mitsui et al., 2006; Poyet et al., 2014).
This is in contrast to D. melanogaster, which has been shown repeatedly to prefer fermenting or rotten fruits, and moreover does not possess the sclerotized ovipositor necessary to puncture fresh, ripe fruits. Additionally, it has been suggested that in blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry plants the stage of fruit development might alter the nearby leaf volatile chemistry (El Hadi et al., 2013; Wang and Lin, 2000), perhaps due to the stress of fruit development, which may further provide navigational cues to D. suzukii adults that are seeking young fruit that is suitable for feeding or oviposition (Supplemental 2C). Moreover, this olfactory sensitivity to leaf chemistry in D. suzukii appears to be regulated by the “ab3A” neuron, an OSN that has been shown repeatedly to play a role in species differences for feeding and oviposition preference. Previously, the “ab3A” neuron has been shown to regulate host plant preference towards a toxic fruit niche for D. sechellia (Dekker et al., 2006), and again in the preference of D. erecta towards egg-laying upon Pandanus fruit (Linz et al., 2013). It also has been demonstrated that the blush phase of strawberry development is the first stage that displays dramatic color change (from green or white to bright red). Therefore, it also may be important to address visual differences in D. suzukii that further aid in this species locating fresh fruit within the leaf canopy of host plants, as vision also is important in trapping this species (Basoalto et al., 2013). It also should be noted that the compound β-cyclocitral often is associated with algae or yeast (Jüttner et al., 2010; Mendes-Pinto, 2009); however, whether β-cyclocitral was produced directly by the plant or instead by an associated microbial organism remains unclear, although the compound has been found previously from volatile collections of strawberries (El Hadi et al., 2013). Nonetheless, it may be important to test leaf-associated microbial strains for the production of additional compounds that D. suzukii might be highly attracted towards. Further work also is necessary to ascertain whether the combination of leaf and fruit odors will maximize D. suzukii capture, and additional studies are required to determine optimal concentrations of β-cyclocitral for field testing or subsequent monitoring efforts.
This research was supported through funding by the Max Planck Society. Stocks obtained from the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center (NIH P40OD018537) were used in this study. We express our gratitude to K. Weniger, S. Trautheim, D. Veit, and T. Krugel for their technical support, guidance and expertise at MPI-CE.
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