UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Nectar-dwelling microbes of common tansy are attractive to its mosquito pollinator, Culex pipiens L. Peach, D. A. H.; Carroll, C.; Meraj, S.; Gomes, S.; Galloway, E.; Balcita, A.; Coatsworth, H.; Young, N.; Uriel, Y.; Gries, R.; et al.


Background: There is widespread interkingdom signalling between insects and microbes. For example, microbes found in floral nectar may modify its nutritional composition and produce odorants that alter the floral odor bouquet which may attract insect pollinators. Mosquitoes consume nectar and can pollinate flowers. We identified microbes isolated from nectar of common tansy, Tanacetum vulgare, elucidated the microbial odorants, and tested their ability to attract the common house mosquito, Culex pipiens. Results: We collected 19 microbial isolates from T. vulgare nectar, representing at least 12 different taxa which we identified with 16S or 26S rDNA sequencing as well as by biochemical and physiological tests. Three microorganisms (Lachancea thermotolerans, Micrococcus lactis, Micrococcus luteus) were grown on culture medium and tested in bioassays. Only the yeast L. thermotolerans grown on nectar, malt extract agar, or in synthetic nectar broth significantly attracted Cx. pipiens females. The odorant profile produced by L. thermotolerans varied with the nutritional composition of the culture medium. All three microbes grown separately, but presented concurrently, attracted fewer Cx. pipiens females than L. thermotolerans by itself. Conclusions: Floral nectar of T. vulgare contains various microbes whose odorants contribute to the odor profile of inflorescences. In addition, L. thermotolerans produced odorants that attract Cx. pipiens females. As the odor profile of L. thermotolerans varied with the composition of the culture medium, we hypothesize that microbe odorants inform nectar-foraging mosquitoes about the availability of certain macro-nutrients which, in turn, affect foraging decisions by mosquitoes.

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