Cell and Developmental Biology, The John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7UH, U.K.
Microbial pathogens and pests produce effectors to modulate host processes. Aphids are phloem-feeding insects, which introduce effectors via saliva into plant cells. However, it is not known if aphid effectors have adapted to modulate processes in specific plant species. Myzus persicae is a polyphagous insect that colonizes Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana benthamiana, while the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum specializes on colonizing plant species of the family Fabaceae. We found that M. persicae reproduction increased on transgenic Arabidopsis, producing the M. persicae effectors C002, PIntO1 (Mp1), and PIntO2 (Mp2), whereas reproduction of M. persicae did not increase on Arabidopsis producing the A. pisum orthologs of these three proteins. Plant-mediated RNA interference experiments showed that c002- and PIntO2-silenced M. persicae produce less progeny on Arabidopsis and N. benthamiana than nonsilenced aphids. Orthologs of c002, PIntO1, and PIntO2 were identified in multiple aphid species with dissimilar plant host ranges. We revealed high nonsynonymous versus synonymous nucleotide substitution rates within the effector orthologs, indicating that the effectors are fast evolving. Application of maximum likelihood methods identified specific sites with high probabilities of being under positive selection in PIntO1, whereas those of C002 and PIntO2 may be located in alignment gaps. In support of the latter, a M. persicae c002 mutant without the NDNQGEE repeat region, which overlaps with an alignment gap in C002, does not promote M. persicae colonization on Arabidopsis. Taken together, these results provide evidence that aphid effectors are under positive selection to promote aphid colonization on specific plant species.