Does Methyl Salicylate, A Component of Herbivore-induced Plant Odour, Promote Sporulation of the Mite-pathogenic Fungus Neozygites tanajoae?

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Blends of volatile chemicals emanating from cassava leaves infested by the cassava green mite were found to promote conidiation of Neozygites tanajoae, an entomopathogenic fungus specific to this mite. Methyl salicylate (MeSA) is one compound frequently present in blends of herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPV) as well as that of mite-infested cassava. Here, we investigated the effect of methyl salicylate in its pure form on the production of pre-infective spores (conidia), and the germination of these spores into infective spores (capilliconidia), by a Brazilian isolate and a Beninese isolate of N. tanajoae. Mummified mites previously infected by the fungal isolates were screened under optimal abiotic conditions for sporulation inside tightly closed boxes with or without methyl salicylate diffusing from a capillary tube. Production of conidia was consistently higher (37%) when the Beninese isolate was exposed to MeSA than when not exposed to it (305.5 ± 52.62 and 223.2 ± 38.13 conidia per mummy with and without MeSA, respectively). MeSA, however, did not promote conidia production by the Brazilian isolate (387.4 ± 44.74 and 415.8 ± 57.95 conidia per mummy with and without MeSA, respectively). Germination of the conidia into capilliconidia was not affected by MeSA for either isolate (0.2%, 252.6 ± 31.80 vs. 253.0 ± 36.65 for the Beninese isolate and 4.2%, 268.5 ± 37.90 vs. 280.2 ± 29.43 for the Brazilian isolate). The effects of MeSA on the production of conidia were similar to those obtained under exposure to the complete blends of HIPV for the case of the Beninese isolate, but dissimilar (no promoting effect of MeSA) for the case of the Brazilian isolate. This shows that MeSA, being one compound out of many HIPV, can be a factor promoting sporulation of N. tanajoae, but it may not be the only factor as its effect varies with the fungal isolate under study.

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