The entomopathogenic nematode (EPN) Heterorhabditis bacteriophora infects a wide range of insect hosts with the aid of its mutualistic bacteria Photorhabdus luminescens. While the mutualistic relationship between H. bacteriophora and P. luminescens and the infectivity of the nematode-bacteria complex have been characterized, how nematode fitness is affected by entomopathogenic bacteria existing in association with other EPN species remains poorly understood. In this study, the survival of H. bacteriophora infective juveniles containing or lacking P. luminescens was tested against the entomopathogenic bacteria Xenorhabdus nematophila and Photorhabdus asymbiotica as well as the non-pathogenic Escherichia coli. While X. nematophila and E. coli did not significantly affect the survival of H. bacteriophora, P. asymbiotica exerted a significant effect on nematode survival, particularly on those lacking P. luminescens. These results imply that P. asymbiotica encodes factors that are pathogenic to EPNs. Future efforts will focus on the identification of the bacterial molecular components that induce these effects. This study makes an important contribution to a growing body of research aimed at exploiting the full potential of nematode-bacterial complexes for eliminating noxious insect pests and treating infectious diseases caused by parasitic nematodes.

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