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Keywords:

  • gut fermentation;
  • hindgut microbial community;
  • insect gut;
  • microbial community structure

The effect of diets varying in carbohydrate and protein content on the structure and function of the hindgut microbiota of crickets was evaluated by determining bacterial densities, fermentation activity, and guanine plus cytosine (G + C) profiles of the DNA extracted from the microbial hindgut community. DNA isolated from the gut community was fractionated and quantified according to G + C content as a comprehensive, coarse-level measure of the composition and structure of the community. The bacterial densities measured by direct counts were not significantly different among the four diets. The crickets were initially reared in the laboratory on cricket chow, which resulted in a hindgut community dominated by bacteria with a G + C content between 32% and 57%. Crickets shifted to an alfalfa diet showed a similar hindgut community G + C profile, although microbial populations with DNA between 35% and 45% G + C were more abundant in alfalfa- than chow-fed crickets. The apparent complexity of the gut community was reduced in crickets fed beet-pulp and protein-based diets compared to those fed chow and alfalfa, and was dominated by populations with a low percentage G + C content. Hindgut communities in crickets fed pulp and protein diets also showed a decrease in hydrogen and carbon dioxide production, suggesting that these diets affected the biochemical activity of the hindgut community. The protein-based diet resulted in a decrease in the rate of evolution of volatile fatty acids, while the ratio of butyrate production to acetate and propionate production was significantly higher in these crickets. Our results show the emergence of a new microbial community structure concomitant with changes in microbial biochemical activity due to shifts in the cricket’s dietary regime.