Plant-parasitic nematode feeding tubes and plugs: new perspectives on function

in Nematology
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Several structures associated with feeding by plant-parasitic nematodes have been described using two terms, feeding tubes and feeding plugs. However, both of these terms encompass multiple structures of independent evolution, some of which are functionally distinct. We have reviewed the literature on both structures and provide a new perspective on the function of intracellular feeding tubes to maintain the integrity and efficacy of the feeding site. We propose that they provide sufficient hydraulic resistance against the feeding site pressure to prevent it from collapsing during feeding. In addition, we propose that extracellular feeding tubes of migratory ectoparasites should be considered as the functional analogue of the stylet of all other plant-parasitic nematodes for withdrawal of host cell cytoplasm and, therefore, provide an example of convergent evolution. We also suggest that the main role of the feeding plug, irrespective of origin or composition, may be in adhesion.

Plant-parasitic nematode feeding tubes and plugs: new perspectives on function

in Nematology



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    The phylum Nematoda. Schematic representation of small subunit ribosomal RNA phylogeny of nematodes reproduced with permission from Jones et al. (2013). The most recent analysis of 1200 species has subdivided the Dorylaimia, Enoplia and Chromadoria into 12 clades (van Megen et al., 2009). Various feeding modes are indicated by small icons. Representatives of each clade containing plant-parasitic nematodes are shown with images. In each of these clades the stylet is hypothesised to have arisen independently. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    Feeding tubes of plant parasitic nematodes. A: Feeding tubes (FT) of the Clade 1 plant parasitic nematode Trichodorus similis appear to bridge the cell wall (CW) and disrupt the plasmalemma (Pl) (modified from Wyss et al. (1979)). Congealed cytoplasm can be seen where the feeding plug (P) contacts the host cell cytoplasm; B-D: Feeding tubes of Clade 12 plant parasites form inside the host cell cytoplasm, at the end of the stomatostyle (St) orifice (arrow), and contact the plasma membrane (PM) exemplified by Rotylenchulus reniformis (B modified from Rebois (1980)). Within the Clade 12 plant parasites, two morphologically distinct feeding tubes exist as seen from cross sections: the electron dense mesh of the cyst nematode feeding tube (C), and the regular lattice structure of the root-knot nematode feeding tube (D). No cross sections are available for T. similis, although longitudinal sections do not indicate a regular lattice structure.

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    Feeding plugs of plant-parasitic nematodes. A: The feeding plugs (P) of Trichodorus similis form inside the host cell adjacent to the cell wall, but attached to the feeding tube (FT) (Wyss et al., 1979); B: The feeding peg/plug (FP) of reniform nematodes forms around the stomatostyle inside the host cell and is difficult to distinguish from cell wall material; C: Cyst nematode feeding plugs (P) appear to be contiguous with the amphidial canal (AC), bridge the cell wall, and encase the stomatostyle. Feeding plugs have not been described for false root-knot or root-knot nematodes. Images modified from Wyss et al. (1979), Rebois (1980) and Endo (1978).


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