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Molecular detection and quantification of slug parasitic nematodes from the soil and their hosts

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Jaffuel Geoffrey, Půža Vladimír, Hug Anna-Sofia, Meuli Reto Giulio, Nermuť Jiří, Turlings Ted C.J., Desurmont Gaylord A., Campos-Herrera Raquel,
Project Exploring the Chemical Ecology of Gastropod-Insect-Plant Interactions
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Invertebrate Pathology
Volume (Issue) 160
Page(s) 18 - 25
Title of proceedings Journal of Invertebrate Pathology
DOI 10.1016/j.jip.2018.11.005


Terrestrial gastropod molluscs are widely distributed and are well known as pests of many types of plants that are notoriously difficult to control. Many species of nematodes are able to parasitize land snails and slugs, but few of them are lethal to their host. Species and/or populations of mollusc-parasitic nematodes (MPNs) that kill their hosts are promising for biological control purposes. The recent discovery of new nematode species of the genus Phasmarhabditis in Europe and the associations between Alloionema spp. and slugs are expanding the possibilities of using MPNs as control agents. However, very little is known about the distribution and ecology of these species. Using molecular techniques based on qPCR methods for quick identification and quantification of various species of MPN isolated directly from the soil or from infected hosts can assist in providing information on their presence and persistence, as well as the composition of natural assemblages. Here, we developed new primers and probes for five species of the genus Phasmarhabditis and one species of the genus Alloionema. We employed these novel molecular techniques and implemented a published molecular set to detect MPN presence in soil samples coming from natural and agricultural areas in Switzerland. We also developed a method that allows the detection and quantification of Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita directly from the tissues of their slug host in a laboratory experiment. The new molecular approaches were optimized to a satisfactory limit of de- tection of the species, with only few cross-amplifications with closely related species in late cycles (> 32). Using these tools, we detected MPNs in 7.5% of sampled sites, corresponding to forest areas (P. hermaphrodita and Alloionema appendiculatum) and wheat-oriented agricultural areas (Phasmarhabditis bohemica). Moreover, we confirmed that the method can be used to detect the presence of P. hermaphrodita inside slug hosts, with more detections in the susceptible slug Deroceras larvae compared to the resistant Arion vulgaris. These primers/probe sets provide a novel and quick tool to identify MPNs from soil samples and infected slugs without having to culture and retrieve all nematode life stages, as well as a new tool to unravel the ecology of nematode-slug complexes.