Data from: Engineering bacterial symbionts of nematodes improves biocontrol potential of the western corn rootworm
Machado, Ricardo A. R. et al. (2020), Data from: Engineering bacterial symbionts of nematodes improves biocontrol potential of the western corn rootworm, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.mgqnk98w4
The western corn rootworm (WCR) decimates maize crops worldwide. One potential way to control this pest is treatment with entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) that harbor bacterial symbionts that are pathogenic to insects. However, WCR larvae sequester benzoxazinoid secondary metabolites that are produced by maize and use them to increase their resistance to the nematodes and their symbionts. Here we report that experimental evolution and selection for bacterial symbionts that are resistant to benzoxazinoids improve the ability of a nematode–symbiont pair to kill WCR larvae. We isolated five Photorhabdus symbionts from different nematodes and increased their benzoxazinoid resistance through experimental evolution. Benzoxazinoid resistance evolved through multiple mechanisms, including a mutation in the aquaporin-like channel gene aqpZ. We reintroduced benzoxazinoid-resistant Photorhabdus strains into their original EPN hosts and identified one nematode–symbiont pair that was able to kill benzoxazinoid-sequestering WCR larvae more efficiently. Our results suggest that modification of bacterial symbionts might provide a generalizable strategy to improve biocontrol of agricultural pests.