The significance of gut sucrase activity for osmoregulation in the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum

AJ Karley, DA Ashford, LM Minto, Jeremy Pritchard, AE Douglas

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The osmotic pressure of the body fluids of aphids is lower than in their diet of plant phloem sap. It is hypothesised that aphids reduce the osmotic pressure of ingested food by sucrase-mediated hydrolysis of dietary sucrose to glucose and fructose, and the polymerisation of glucose into oligosaccharides of low osmotic pressure per hexose unit. To test this hypothesis, the impact of the alpha-glucosidase inhibitor acarbose on the sugar relations and osmoregulation of aphids was explored. Acarbose inhibited sucrase activity in gut homogenates and the production of monosaccharides and oligosaccharides in the honeydew of live aphids. Acarbose caused an increase in the haemolymph osmotic pressure for aphids reared on a diet (containing 0.75 M sucrose) hyperosmotic to the haemolymph and not on the isoosmotic diet containing 0.2 M sucrose. It did not affect aphid feeding rate over 2 days, except at high concentrations on 0.75 M sucrose diet, and this may have been a secondary consequence of osmotic dysfunction. Acarbose-treated aphids died prematurely. With 5 microM dietary acarbose, mean survivorship on 0.2 M sucrose diet was 4.2 days, not significantly different from starved aphids, indicating that, although these aphids fed, they were deprived of utilisable carbon; and on 0.75 M sucrose diet, mean survivorship was just 2.8 days, probably as a consequence of osmotic failure. It is concluded that the aphid gut sucrase activity is essential for osmoregulation of aphids ingesting food hyperosmotic to their body fluids.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1313-1319
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2005


  • honeydew composition
  • aphid
  • alpha-glucosidase
  • Acyrthosiphon pisum
  • osmoregulation
  • feeding rate
  • sucrase
  • haemolymph


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