Insect Symbionts: Evolution and Application

A topical collection in Insects (ISSN 2075-4450). This collection belongs to the section "Insect Systematics, Phylogeny and Evolution".

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Editor

Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Universitätsplatz 5, 39100 Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
Interests: Wolbachia; endosymbionts; invasive species; Tephritidae; Psyllidae

Topical Collection Information

Dear Colleagues,

Microbes are ubiquitous in insects and have important consequences for their host’s nutrition, behavior, and ecology. The consequences of the symbiont–host association encompass a continuum from beneficial effects, providing their hosts essential nutrients or protecting against pathogens and natural enemies to parasitism, influencing the reproduction of their host bacteria and, therefore, are an important factor influencing the ecology and evolution of their insect hosts. Consequently, they represent an important novel tool to control insect pests. This Special Issue will focus on the diversity and consequences of symbionts in various insect species including potential strategies involving their application to combat insect pests. We welcome submissions covering the whole spectrum of insect–symbiont interaction, such as occurrence and diversity of insect symbionts, symbiont-induced host evolution, symbiont evolution within insects, and the usage of symbionts to combat insect pests.

Dr. Hannes Schuler
Collection Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • endosymbiont
  • host–microbe interactions
  • microbiome
  • pathogen
  • mutualism
  • infection dynamics
  • speciation

Published Papers (11 papers)

2021

Jump to: 2020

17 pages, 3571 KiB  
Article
Microbiome Associated with the Mycangia of Female and Male Adults of the Ambrosia Beetle Platypus cylindrus Fab. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae)
Insects 2021, 12(10), 881; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12100881 - 29 Sep 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2997
Abstract
The ambrosia beetle Platypus cylindrus Fab. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) is a major cork oak pest in Portugal. Female and male beetles have different roles in host tree colonization and are both equipped with prothoracic mycangia for fungal transportation. Despite a known beneficial role of [...] Read more.
The ambrosia beetle Platypus cylindrus Fab. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) is a major cork oak pest in Portugal. Female and male beetles have different roles in host tree colonization and are both equipped with prothoracic mycangia for fungal transportation. Despite a known beneficial role of bacteria in ambrosia beetles, information on bacterial composition associated with prothoracic mycangia structures is scarce. Bacterial community from mycangia of P. cylindrus male and female beetles collected from cork oak galleries was investigated by means of 16S metagenomics. Mycangia anatomical structure was also explored with histological techniques and X-ray computed microtomography to highlight evidence supporting biological sexual dimorphism. A bacterial community with highly diverse bacterial taxa with low abundances at the genus level was revealed. Lactobacillales, Leptotrichia, Neisseria, Rothia, and Sphingomonadaceae were significantly more abundant in males, while Acinetobacter, Chitinophagaceae, Enterobacteriaceae, Erwiniaceae, Microbacteriaceae, and Pseudoclavibacter were more abundant in females. Additionally, a core bacteriome of five genera was shared by both sexes. Histological examination revealed visible connections linking external and internal tissues in females, but none in males. Overall, these results provide the first insights into sexual differentiation for bacteria in a Platypodinae beetle species, identifying key patterns of bacteria distribution in the context of beetle ecology and functional behavior. Full article
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37 pages, 4093 KiB  
Article
Frequent Drivers, Occasional Passengers: Signals of Symbiont-Driven Seasonal Adaptation and Hitchhiking in the Pea Aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum
Insects 2021, 12(9), 805; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12090805 - 08 Sep 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2453
Abstract
Insects harbor a variety of maternally inherited bacterial symbionts. As such, variation in symbiont presence/absence, in the combinations of harbored symbionts, and in the genotypes of harbored symbiont species provide heritable genetic variation of potential use in the insects’ adaptive repertoires. Understanding the [...] Read more.
Insects harbor a variety of maternally inherited bacterial symbionts. As such, variation in symbiont presence/absence, in the combinations of harbored symbionts, and in the genotypes of harbored symbiont species provide heritable genetic variation of potential use in the insects’ adaptive repertoires. Understanding the natural importance of symbionts is challenging but studying their dynamics over time can help to elucidate the potential for such symbiont-driven insect adaptation. Toward this end, we studied the seasonal dynamics of six maternally transferred bacterial symbiont species in the multivoltine pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum). Our sampling focused on six alfalfa fields in southeastern Pennsylvania, and spanned 14 timepoints within the 2012 growing season, in addition to two overwintering periods. To test and generate hypotheses on the natural relevance of these non-essential symbionts, we examined whether symbiont dynamics correlated with any of ten measured environmental variables from the 2012 growing season, including some of known importance in the lab. We found that five symbionts changed prevalence across one or both overwintering periods, and that the same five species underwent such frequency shifts across the 2012 growing season. Intriguingly, the frequencies of these dynamic symbionts showed robust correlations with a subset of our measured environmental variables. Several of these trends supported the natural relevance of lab-discovered symbiont roles, including anti-pathogen defense. For a seventh symbiont—Hamiltonella defensa—studied previously across the same study periods, we tested whether a reported correlation between prevalence and temperature stemmed not from thermally varying host-level fitness effects, but from selection on co-infecting symbionts or on aphid-encoded alleles associated with this bacterium. In general, such “hitchhiking” effects were not evident during times with strongly correlated Hamiltonella and temperature shifts. However, we did identify at least one time period in which Hamiltonella spread was likely driven by selection on a co-infecting symbiont—Rickettsiella viridis. Recognizing the broader potential for such hitchhiking, we explored selection on co-infecting symbionts as a possible driver behind the dynamics of the remaining six species. Out of twelve examined instances of symbiont dynamics unfolding across 2-week periods or overwintering spans, we found eight in which the focal symbiont underwent parallel frequency shifts under single infection and one or more co-infection contexts. This supported the idea that phenotypic variation created by the presence/absence of individual symbionts is a direct target for selection, and that symbiont effects can be robust under co-habitation with other symbionts. Contrastingly, in two cases, we found that selection may target phenotypes emerging from symbiont co-infections, with specific species combinations driving overall trends for the focal dynamic symbionts, without correlated change under single infection. Finally, in three cases—including the one described above for Hamiltonella—our data suggested that incidental co-infection with a (dis)favored symbiont could lead to large frequency shifts for “passenger” symbionts, conferring no apparent cost or benefit. Such hitchhiking has rarely been studied in heritable symbiont systems. We propose that it is more common than appreciated, given the widespread nature of maternally inherited bacteria, and the frequency of multi-species symbiotic communities across insects. Full article
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14 pages, 2078 KiB  
Article
Effect of the Genotypic Variation of an Aphid Host on the Endosymbiont Associations in Natural Host Populations
Insects 2021, 12(3), 217; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12030217 - 04 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2201
Abstract
Understanding the role of facultative endosymbionts on the host’s ecology has been the main aim of the research in symbiont–host systems. However, current research on host–endosymbiont dynamics has failed to examine the genetic background of the hosts and its effect on host–endosymbiont associations [...] Read more.
Understanding the role of facultative endosymbionts on the host’s ecology has been the main aim of the research in symbiont–host systems. However, current research on host–endosymbiont dynamics has failed to examine the genetic background of the hosts and its effect on host–endosymbiont associations in real populations. We have addressed the seasonal dynamic of facultative endosymbiont infections among different host clones of the grain aphid Sitobion avenae, on two cereal crops (wheat and oat) and whether their presence affects the total hymenopteran parasitism of aphid hosts at the field level. We present evidence of rapid seasonal shifts in the endosymbiont frequency, suggesting a positive selection of endosymbionts at the host-level (aphids) through an agricultural growing season, by two mechanisms; (1) an increase of aphid infections with endosymbionts over time, and (2) the seasonal replacement of host clones within natural populations by increasing the prevalence of aphid clones closely associated to endosymbionts. Our results highlight how genotypic variation of hosts can affect the endosymbiont prevalence in the field, being an important factor for understanding the magnitude and direction of the adaptive and/or maladaptive responses of hosts to the environment. Full article
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11 pages, 1831 KiB  
Article
Skipping the Insect Vector: Plant Stolon Transmission of the Phytopathogen ‘Ca. Phlomobacter fragariae’ from the Arsenophonus Clade of Insect Endosymbionts
Insects 2021, 12(2), 93; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12020093 - 22 Jan 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1858
Abstract
The genus Arsenophonus represents one of the most widespread clades of insect endosymbionts, including reproductive manipulators and bacteriocyte-associated primary endosymbionts. Two strains belonging to the Arsenophonus clade have been identified as insect-vectored plant pathogens of strawberry and sugar beet. The bacteria accumulate in [...] Read more.
The genus Arsenophonus represents one of the most widespread clades of insect endosymbionts, including reproductive manipulators and bacteriocyte-associated primary endosymbionts. Two strains belonging to the Arsenophonus clade have been identified as insect-vectored plant pathogens of strawberry and sugar beet. The bacteria accumulate in the phloem of infected plants, ultimately causing leaf yellows and necrosis. These symbionts therefore represent excellent model systems to investigate the evolutionary transition from a purely insect-associated endosymbiont towards an insect-vectored phytopathogen. Using quantitative PCR and transmission electron microscopy, we demonstrate that ‘Candidatus Phlomobacter fragariae’, bacterial symbiont of the planthopper Cixius wagneri and the causative agent of Strawberry Marginal Chlorosis disease, can be transmitted from an infected strawberry plant to multiple daughter plants through stolons. Stolons are horizontally growing stems enabling the nutrient provisioning of daughter plants during their early growth phase. Our results show that Phlomobacter was abundant in the phloem sieve elements of stolons and was efficiently transmitted to daughter plants, which rapidly developed disease symptoms. From an evolutionary perspective, Phlomobacter is, therefore, not only able to survive within the plant after transmission by the insect vector, but can even be transmitted to new plant generations, independently from its ancestral insect host. Full article
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2020

Jump to: 2021

17 pages, 1351 KiB  
Article
Infection Patterns and Fitness Effects of Rickettsia and Sodalis Symbionts in the Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea
Insects 2020, 11(12), 867; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11120867 - 07 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2915
Abstract
Endosymbionts are widely distributed in insects and can strongly affect their host ecology. The common green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) is a neuropteran insect which is widely used in biological pest control. However, their endosymbionts and their interactions with their hosts have [...] Read more.
Endosymbionts are widely distributed in insects and can strongly affect their host ecology. The common green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) is a neuropteran insect which is widely used in biological pest control. However, their endosymbionts and their interactions with their hosts have not been very well studied. Therefore, we screened for endosymbionts in natural and laboratory populations of Ch. carnea using diagnostic PCR amplicons. We found the endosymbiont Rickettsia to be very common in all screened natural and laboratory populations, while a hitherto uncharacterized Sodalis strain was found only in laboratory populations. By establishing lacewing lines with no, single or co-infections of Sodalis and Rickettsia, we found a high vertical transmission rate for both endosymbionts (>89%). However, we were only able to estimate these numbers for co-infected lacewings. Sodalis negatively affected the reproductive success in single and co-infected Ch. carnea, while Rickettsia showed no effect. We hypothesize that the fitness costs accrued by Sodalis infections might be more tolerable in the laboratory than in natural populations, as the latter are also prone to fluctuating environmental conditions and natural enemies. The economic and ecological importance of lacewings in biological pest control warrants a more profound understanding of its biology, which might be influenced by symbionts. Full article
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14 pages, 513 KiB  
Review
Wolbachia’s Deleterious Impact on Aedes aegypti Egg Development: The Potential Role of Nutritional Parasitism
Insects 2020, 11(11), 735; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11110735 - 27 Oct 2020
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 6821
Abstract
The artificial introduction of the endosymbiotic bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis, into Aedes (Ae.) aegypti mosquitoes reduces the ability of mosquitoes to transmit human pathogenic viruses and is now being developed as a biocontrol tool. Successful introgression of Wolbachia-carrying Ae. aegypti into native mosquito [...] Read more.
The artificial introduction of the endosymbiotic bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis, into Aedes (Ae.) aegypti mosquitoes reduces the ability of mosquitoes to transmit human pathogenic viruses and is now being developed as a biocontrol tool. Successful introgression of Wolbachia-carrying Ae. aegypti into native mosquito populations at field sites in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia has been associated with reduced disease prevalence in the treated community. In separate field programs, Wolbachia is also being used as a mosquito population suppression tool, where the release of male only Wolbachia-infected Ae. aegypti prevents the native mosquito population from producing viable eggs, subsequently suppressing the wild population. While these technologies show great promise, they require mass rearing of mosquitoes for implementation on a scale that has not previously been done. In addition, Wolbachia induces some negative fitness effects on Ae. aegypti. While these fitness effects differ depending on the Wolbachia strain present, one of the most consistent and significant impacts is the shortened longevity and viability of eggs. This review examines the body of evidence behind Wolbachia’s negative effect on eggs, assesses nutritional parasitism as a key cause and considers how these impacts could be overcome to achieve efficient large-scale rearing of these mosquitoes. Full article
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8 pages, 610 KiB  
Communication
Wolbachia-Mitochondrial DNA Associations in Transitional Populations of Rhagoletis cerasi
Insects 2020, 11(10), 675; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11100675 - 05 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2084
Abstract
The endosymbiont Wolbachia can manipulate arthropod host reproduction by inducing cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), which results in embryonic mortality when infected males mate with uninfected females. A CI-driven invasion of Wolbachia can result in a selective sweep of associated mitochondrial haplotype. The co-inheritance of [...] Read more.
The endosymbiont Wolbachia can manipulate arthropod host reproduction by inducing cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), which results in embryonic mortality when infected males mate with uninfected females. A CI-driven invasion of Wolbachia can result in a selective sweep of associated mitochondrial haplotype. The co-inheritance of Wolbachia and host mitochondrial DNA can therefore provide significant information on the dynamics of an ongoing Wolbachia invasion. Therefore, transition zones (i.e., regions where a Wolbachia strain is currently spreading from infected to uninfected populations) represent an ideal area to investigate the relationship between Wolbachia and host mitochondrial haplotype. Here, we studied Wolbachia-mitochondrial haplotype associations in the European cherry fruit fly, Rhagoletis cerasi, in two transition zones in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where the CI-inducing strain wCer2 is currently spreading. The wCer2-infection status of 881 individuals was compared with the two known R. cerasi mitochondrial haplotypes, HT1 and HT2. In accordance with previous studies, wCer2-uninfected individuals were associated with HT1, and wCer2-infected individuals were mainly associated with HT2. We found misassociations only within the transition zones, where HT2 flies were wCer2-uninfected, suggesting the occurrence of imperfect maternal transmission. We did not find any HT1 flies that were wCer2-infected, suggesting that Wolbachia was not acquired horizontally. Our study provides new insights into the dynamics of the early phase of a Wolbachia invasion. Full article
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11 pages, 1663 KiB  
Article
Phylogeny and Density Dynamics of Wolbachia Infection of the Health Pest Paederus fuscipes Curtis (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae)
Insects 2020, 11(9), 625; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090625 - 11 Sep 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2683
Abstract
The maternally inherited obligate intracellular bacteria Wolbachia infects the reproductive tissues of a wide range of arthropods and affects host reproduction. Wolbachia is a credible biocontrol agent for reducing the impact of diseases associated with arthropod vectors. Paederus fuscipes is a small staphylinid [...] Read more.
The maternally inherited obligate intracellular bacteria Wolbachia infects the reproductive tissues of a wide range of arthropods and affects host reproduction. Wolbachia is a credible biocontrol agent for reducing the impact of diseases associated with arthropod vectors. Paederus fuscipes is a small staphylinid beetle that causes dermatitis linearis and conjunctivitis in humans when they come into contact with skin. Wolbachia occur in this beetle, but their relatedness to other Wolbachia, their infection dynamics, and their potential host effects remain unknown. In this study, we report the phylogenetic position and density dynamics of Wolbachia in P. fuscipes. The phylogeny of Wolbachia based on an analysis of MLST genotyping showed that the bacteria from P. fuscipes belong to supergroup B. Quantitative PCR indicated that the infection density in adults was higher than in any other life stage (egg, larva or pupa), and that reproductive tissue in adults had the highest infection densities, with similar densities in the sexes. These findings provide a starting point for understanding the Wolbachia infection dynamics in P. fuscipes, and interactions with other components of the microbiota. Full article
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15 pages, 5926 KiB  
Article
Cellular Localization of Two Rickettsia Symbionts in the Digestive System and within the Ovaries of the Mirid Bug, Macrolophous pygmaeus
Insects 2020, 11(8), 530; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11080530 - 13 Aug 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 3446
Abstract
Bacterial symbionts in arthropods are common, vary in their effects, and can dramatically influence the outcome of biological control efforts. Macrolophus pygmaeus (Heteroptera: Miridae), a key component of biological control programs, is mainly predaceous but may also display phytophagy. M. pygmaeus hosts symbiotic [...] Read more.
Bacterial symbionts in arthropods are common, vary in their effects, and can dramatically influence the outcome of biological control efforts. Macrolophus pygmaeus (Heteroptera: Miridae), a key component of biological control programs, is mainly predaceous but may also display phytophagy. M. pygmaeus hosts symbiotic Wolbachia, which induce cytoplasmic incompatibility, and two Rickettsia species, R. bellii and R. limoniae, which are found in all individuals tested. To test possible involvement of the two Rickettsia species in the feeding habits of M. pygmaeus, we first showed that the microbiome of the insect is dominated by these three symbionts, and later described the distribution pattern of the two Rickettsia species in its digestive system. Although both Rickettsia species were located in certain gut bacteriocyes, in caeca and in Malpighian tubules of both sexes, each species has a unique cellular occupancy pattern and specific distribution along digestive system compartments. Infrequently, both species were found in a cell. In females, both Rickettsia species were detected in the germarium, the apical end of the ovarioles within the ovaries, but not in oocytes. Although the cause for these Rickettsia distribution patterns is yet unknown, it is likely linked to host nutrition while feeding on prey or plants. Full article
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18 pages, 1595 KiB  
Article
Detection of Wolbachia Infections in Natural and Laboratory Populations of the Moroccan Hessian Fly, Mayetiola destructor (Say)
Insects 2020, 11(6), 340; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11060340 - 02 Jun 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3308
Abstract
Mayetiola destructor (Hessian fly) is a destructive pest of wheat in several parts of the world. Here, we investigated the presence of reproductive symbionts and the effect of the geographical location on the bacterial community associated to adult Hessian flies derived from four [...] Read more.
Mayetiola destructor (Hessian fly) is a destructive pest of wheat in several parts of the world. Here, we investigated the presence of reproductive symbionts and the effect of the geographical location on the bacterial community associated to adult Hessian flies derived from four major wheat producing areas in Morocco. Using specific 16S rDNA PCR assay, Wolbachia infection was observed in 3% of the natural populations and 10% of the laboratory population. High throughput sequencing of V3-V4 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene revealed that the microbiota of adult Hessian flies was significantly influenced by their native regions. A total of 6 phyla, 10 classes and 79 genera were obtained from all the samples. Confirming the screening results, Wolbachia was identified as well in the natural Hessian flies. Phylogenetic analysis using the sequences obtained in this study indicated that there is one Wolbachia strain belonging to supergroup A. To our knowledge, this is the first report of Wolbachia in Hessian fly populations. The observed low abundance of Wolbachia most likely does not indicate induction of reproductive incompatibility. Yet, this infection may give a new insight into the use of Wolbachia for the fight against Hessian fly populations. Full article
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9 pages, 1051 KiB  
Article
The Intracellular Symbiont Wolbachia pipientis Enhances Recombination in a Dose-Dependent Manner
Insects 2020, 11(5), 284; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11050284 - 06 May 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2726
Abstract
Wolbachia pipientis is an intracellular alphaproteobacterium that infects 40%–60% of insect species and is well known for host reproductive manipulations. Although Wolbachia are primarily maternally transmitted, evidence of horizontal transmission can be found in incongruent host–symbiont phylogenies and recent acquisitions of the same [...] Read more.
Wolbachia pipientis is an intracellular alphaproteobacterium that infects 40%–60% of insect species and is well known for host reproductive manipulations. Although Wolbachia are primarily maternally transmitted, evidence of horizontal transmission can be found in incongruent host–symbiont phylogenies and recent acquisitions of the same Wolbachia strain by distantly related species. Parasitoids and predator–prey interactions may indeed facilitate the transfer of Wolbachia between insect lineages, but it is likely that Wolbachia are acquired via introgression in many cases. Many hypotheses exist to explain Wolbachia prevalence and penetrance, such as nutritional supplementation, protection from parasites, protection from viruses, or direct reproductive parasitism. Using classical genetics, we show that Wolbachia increase recombination in infected lineages across two genomic intervals. This increase in recombination is titer-dependent as the wMelPop variant, which infects at higher load in Drosophila melanogaster, increases recombination 5% more than the wMel variant. In addition, we also show that Spiroplasma poulsonii, another bacterial intracellular symbiont of D. melanogaster, does not induce an increase in recombination. Our results suggest that Wolbachia infection specifically alters its host’s recombination landscape in a dose-dependent manner. Full article
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