Date of this Version
Genes Genomes Genetics, Volume 5, February 2015
Environmental stress affects basic organismal functioning and can cause physiological, developmental, and reproductive impairment. However, in many nonmodel organisms, the core molecular stress response remains poorly characterized and the extent to which stress-induced transcriptional changes differ across qualitatively different stress types is largely unexplored. The current study examines the molecular stress response of the soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) using RNA sequencing and compares transcriptional responses to multiple stressors (heat, starvation, and plant defenses) at a standardized stress level (27% adult mortality). Stress-induced transcriptional changes showed remarkable variation, with starvation, heat, and plant defensive stress altering the expression of 3985, 510, and 12 genes, respectively. Molecular responses showed little overlap across all three stressors. However, a common transcriptional stress response was identified under heat and starvation, involved with up-regulation of glycogen biosynthesis and molecular chaperones and down-regulation of bacterial endosymbiont cellular and insect cuticular components. Stressor-specific responses indicated heat affected expression of heat shock proteins and cuticular components, whereas starvation altered a diverse set of genes involved in primary metabolism, oxidative reductive processes, nucleosome and histone assembly, and the regulation of DNA repair and replication. Exposure to host plant defenses elicited the weakest response, of which half of the genes were of unknown function. This study highlights the need for standardizing stress levels when comparing across stress types and provides a basis for understanding the role of general vs. stressor specific molecular responses in aphids.