Unravelling the resistance mechanism of lettuce against Nasonovia ribisnigri

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Aphids are serious pests of crop plant species, and host plant resistance is often the most effective and environmentally friendly control strategy to control these pests. One of these aphid pests is the black currant - lettuce aphid, Nasonovia ribisnigri (Mosely), an economically important pest of cultivated lettuce, Lactuca sativa L. Host plant resistance has been used since 1982 to control this aphid species and is mediated by the Nr-gene, originating from wild lettuce Lactuca virosa L. However, this resistance is not effective anymore, since N. ribisnigri aphids virulent to the Nr-resistance have been reported since 2007. The aim of this thesis was to unravel the mechanism of resistance mediated by the Nr-gene against N. ribisnigri, by behavioural studies on the aphids on both resistant and susceptible lettuce, to allow lettuce breeders to accelerate their resistance breeding programmes. Although the exact mechanism of Nr-mediated resistance remains unknown, the data in this thesis provide insight into this mechanism. The active site of the Nr-mediated resistance is mainly located in the phloem and some resistance might be encountered by the aphids along the pathway to the phloem. The inability of the avirulent aphids to feed from the resistant plant could be caused by the failure of aphids to suppress the wound response of the sieve element. The resistance factor(s) are only produced in the shoot, because grafts with resistant shoots and susceptible roots were resistant, whereas grafts with susceptible shoots and resistant roots remained susceptible. An intact vascular system is needed for full resistance, because both detached leaves and leaf disks of resistant lettuce plants were less resistant.

Variation in virulence was observed among populations of different geographical origin. Aphids from a highly virulent population performed equally well on both resistant and susceptible lettuce plants, whereas semi-virulent aphids performed better on susceptible lettuce plants. Both short-term and long-term virulence loss were observed for virulent aphid populations differing in virulence level, which indicates this virulence is associated with fitness costs. A possible mechanism underlying virulence in N. ribisnigri to the Nr-resistance is the presence of an effector protein in the salivary secretion of the aphids suppressing resistance. Virulent aphids seemed to actively suppress the resistance in lettuce against the avirulent aphids.

The original donor or the Nr-resistance, L. virosa accession IVT 280, was tested as possible source of new resistance against the virulent biotypes of N. ribisnigri and was foundfully resistant against virulent aphids, and can be exploited as a source of resistance in breeding for new resistance in cultivated lettuce.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van Loon, Joop, Promotor
  • Dicke, Marcel, Promotor
Award date5 Sept 2013
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789461735782
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2013


  • lactuca virosa
  • lactuca sativa
  • lettuces
  • insect pests
  • nasonovia ribisnigri
  • pest resistance
  • defence mechanisms
  • host-seeking behaviour
  • insect plant relations


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