Sex Attraction and Mating in Bursaphelenchus okinawaensis and B. xylophilus

Ryoji Shinya, Anthony Chen, Paul W. Sternberg

Abstract


The fungal feeding, hermaphroditic Bursaphelenchus okinawaensis is a laboratory model to understand the biology of
Bursaphelenchus. The extent to which B. okinawaensis can be used to model Bursaphelenchus xylophilus mating was investigated. A chemotaxis assay was conducted to examine whether B. xylophilus and B. okinawaensis produce and respond to volatile sex attractants. Unmated B. xylophilus females were found to attract B. xylophilus males. Similarly, old (sperm depleted) but not young (sperm repleted) B. okinawaensis hermaphrodites attract B. okinawaensis males. Thus, in both species, sperm status corresponds to its ability to attract males. B. xylophilus males also produce a volatile pheromone that attracts both mated and unmated females. A second assay, in which the behavior of males on petri plates in the presence of different females or hermaphrodites of Bursaphelenchus was observed, revealed that B. xylophilus unmated females attract B. okinawaensis males, and B. okinawaensis old hermaphrodites attract B. xylophilus males. These observations suggested that the pheromones of Bursaphelenchus work to some extent across species. Mating behavior through spicule insertion occurs across species, suggesting that postcopulatory mechanisms prevent production of interspecific progeny. The hermaphroditic B. okinawaensis will be a useful model to conduct genetic studies for the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying mating behavior in Bursaphelenchus nematodes.

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