Diaphorin, a polyketide synthesized by an intracellular symbiont of the Asian citrus psyllid, is potentially harmful for biological control agents.
The Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Psylloidea: Liviidae) is an important pest of citrus species worldwide because it transmits Candidatus Liberibacter spp. (Alphaproteobacteria), the causative agents of an incurable citrus disease known as huanglongbing or greening disease. Diaphorina citri possesses a vertically-transmitted intracellular symbiont, Candidatus Profftella armatura (Betaproteobacteria), which produces diaphorin, a polyketide that is significantly toxic to mammalian cells. Diaphorin is an analog of pederin, a defensive polyketide in the body fluid of Paederus rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) that deters predators. In the present study, as a first step to assess the possibility that diaphorin is toxic to biological control agents, we assayed diaphorin activities against insects and fungi. The target cells and organisms were (a) the Sf9 cell line derived from the fall armyworm moth Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), (b) the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Aphidoidea: Aphididae), a phloem sap-sucking insect that is closely related to psyllids, (c) the Asian lady beetle Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), one of the major predators of D. citri, and (d) the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Ascomycota: Saccharomycetes) as a model of fungal pathogens. For a comparison, we also evaluated pederin activities. The results of our analyses revealed the following: (1) Diaphorin and pederin are significantly toxic to the tested insects and yeast; (2) Their toxicities vary widely among the target cells and organisms; (3) Diaphorin is generally less toxic than pederin; (4) The toxicities of diaphorin and pederin are considerably different in the Sf9 insect cell line and S. cerevisiae, but similar in A. pisum and H. axyridis; and (5) The amount of diaphorin contained in D. citri is toxic to all of the tested cells and organisms, suggesting that this polyketide is potentially harmful for biological control agents.