Fors, L. Markus, R. Theopold, U. Hambäck, PA. 2014. Differences in cellular immune competence explain parasitoid resistance for two coleopteran species, PloS One, Sep 26;9(9):e108795. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108795. eCollection 2014.


The immune defence of an organism is evolving continuously, causing counteradaptations in interacting species, which in turn affect other ecological and evolutionary processes. Until recently comparative studies of species interactions and immunity, combining information from both ecological and immunological fields, have been rare. The cellular immune defense in insects, mainly mediated by circulating hemocytes, has been studied primarily in Lepidoptera and Diptera, whereas corresponding information about coleopteran species is still scarce. In the study presented here, we used two closely related chrysomelids, Galerucella pusilla and G. calmariensis (Coleoptera), both attacked by the same parasitoid, Asecodes parviclava (Hymenoptera). In order to investigate the structure of the immune system in Galerucella and to detect possible differences between the two species, we combined ecological studies with controlled parasitism experiments, followed by an investigation of the cell composition in the larval hemolymph. We found a striking difference in parasitism rate between the species, as well as in the level of successful immune response (i.e. encapsulation and melanisation of parasitoid eggs), with G. pusilla showing a much more potent immune defense than G. calmariensis. These differences were linked to differences in the larval cell composition, where hemocyte subsets in both naïve and parasitised individuals differed significantly between the species. In particular, the hemocytes shown to be active in the encapsulation process; phagocytes, lamellocytes and granulocytes, differ between the species, indicating that the cell composition reflects the ability to defend against the parasitoid.