An Enterobacteriaceae bacterium, Pantoea ananatis (Serrano) Mergaert, is the causal agent of an economically important disease of onion, center rot. P. ananatis is transmitted by an onion-infesting thrips, Frankliniella fusca (Hinds). However, interactions between F. fusca and P. ananatis as well as transmission mechanisms largely remain uncharacterized. This study investigated P. ananatis acquisition by thrips and transstadial persistence. Furthermore, the effects of bacterial acquisition on thrips fitness were also evaluated. When thrips larvae and adults were provided with acquisition access periods (AAP) on peanut leaflets contaminated with the bacterium, an exponentially positive relationship was observed between AAP and P. ananatis acquisition (R(2) ≥ 0.77, P = 0.01). P. ananatis persisted in thrips through several life stages (larvae, pupae, and adult). Despite the bacterial persistence, no significant effects on thrips fitness parameters such as fecundity and development were observed. Immunofluorescence microscopy of adult thrips with P. ananatis-specific antibody after 48 h AAP on contaminated food revealed that the bacterium was localized only in the gut. These results suggested that the pathogen is not circulative and could be transmitted through feces. Mechanical inoculation of onion seedlings with fecal rinsates produced center rot symptoms, whereas inoculation with rinsates potentially containing salivary secretions did not. These results provide evidence for stercorarian transmission (transmission through feces) of P. ananatis by F. fusca.
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