Entomopathogenic pseudomonads can share an insect host with entomopathogenic nematodes and their mutualistic bacteria

ISME J. 2024 Jan 8;18(1):wrae028. doi: 10.1093/ismejo/wrae028.


A promising strategy to overcome limitations in biological control of insect pests is the combined application of entomopathogenic pseudomonads (EPPs) and nematodes (EPNs) associated with mutualistic bacteria (NABs). Yet, little is known about interspecies interactions such as competition, coexistence, or even cooperation between these entomopathogens when they infect the same insect host. We investigated the dynamics of bacteria-bacteria interactions between the EPP Pseudomonas protegens CHA0 and the NAB Xenorhabdus bovienii SM5 isolated from the EPN Steinernema feltiae RS5. Bacterial populations were assessed over time in experimental systems of increasing complexity. In vitro, SM5 was outcompeted when CHA0 reached a certain cell density, resulting in the collapse of the SM5 population. In contrast, both bacteria were able to coexist upon haemolymph-injection into Galleria mellonella larvae, as found for three further EPP-NAB combinations. Finally, both bacteria were administered by natural infection routes i.e. orally for CHA0 and nematode-vectored for SM5 resulting in the addition of RS5 to the system. This did not alter bacterial coexistence nor did the presence of the EPP affect nematode reproductive success or progeny virulence. CHA0 benefited from RS5, probably by exploiting access routes formed by the nematodes penetrating the larval gut epithelium. Our results indicate that EPPs are able to share an insect host with EPNs and their mutualistic bacteria without major negative effects on the reproduction of any of the three entomopathogens or the fitness of the nematodes. This suggests that their combination is a promising strategy for biological insect pest control.

Keywords: Interspecies interactions; biological control; coexistence; coinfection; entomopathogenic nematodes; host-sharing; insecticidal pseudomonads; nematode mutualistically associated bacteria.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Insecta
  • Larva / microbiology
  • Moths* / microbiology
  • Rhabditida* / microbiology
  • Symbiosis