Pea aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum, containing their symbiotic bacteria (untreated aphids) and experimentally deprived of their bacteria by treatment with the antibiotic rifampicin (antibiotic-treated aphids) were reared on the plant Vicia faba. The sugars in the honeydew produced by untreated aphids comprised predominantly the monosaccharides glucose and fructose, while the honeydew of antibiotic-treated aphids contained considerable amounts of oligosaccharides of up to 16 hexose units. The honeydew and haemolymph of the aphids were iso-osmotic, and their osmotic pressure was significantly lower in untreated aphids (0.91&shy;0.95 MPa) than in antibiotic-treated aphids (1.01&shy;1.05 MPa) (P<0.05). For insects reared on chemically defined diets containing 0.15&shy;1.0 mol l-1 sucrose (osmotic pressure 1.1&shy;4.0 MPa), the osmotic pressure of the aphid haemolymph did not vary with dietary osmotic pressure, but was regulated to approximately 1.0 MPa in untreated and 1.3 MPa in antibiotic-treated aphids. The sugars in the aphid honeydew varied with dietary sucrose concentration; with monosaccharides dominant at low concentrations and oligosaccharides dominant at high concentrations of dietary sucrose. The lowest dietary sucrose concentration at which honeydew oligosaccharides were detected was 0.2 mol l-1 for the antibiotic-treated aphids and 0.3 mol l-1 for untreated aphids. These data indicate that the aphid, and not its associated microbiota, mediates the synthesis of oligosaccharides when the osmotic pressure of the ingesta is high.

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