Evolutionary replacement of obligate symbionts in an ancient and diverse insect lineage

Authors

  • Ryuichi Koga,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Microbial Diversity Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
    2. Bioproduction Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
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  • Gordon M. Bennett,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Microbial Diversity Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
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  • Jason R. Cryan,

    1. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC, USA
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  • Nancy A. Moran

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Microbial Diversity Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
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For correspondence. E-mail nancy.moran@yale.edu; Tel. (+1) 203 7437 3087; Fax (+1) 203 737 3109.

Summary

Many insect groups depend on ancient obligate symbioses with bacteria that undergo long-term genomic degradation due to inactivation and loss of ancestral genes. Sap-feeding insects in the hemipteran suborder Auchenorrhyncha show complex symbioses with at least two obligate bacterial symbionts, inhabiting specialized host cells (bacteriocytes). We explored the symbiotic relationships of the spittlebugs (Auchenorrhyncha: Cercopoidea) using phylogenetic and microscopy methods. Results show that most spittlebugs contain the symbionts Sulcia muelleri (Bacteroidetes) and Zinderia insecticola (Betaproteobacteria) with each restricted to its own bacteriocyte type. However, the ancestral Zinderia symbiont has been replaced with a novel symbiont closely related to Sodalis glossinidius (Enterobacteriaceae) in members of the ecologically successful spittlebug tribe Philaenini. At least one spittlebug species retains Sulcia and Zinderia, but also has acquired a Sodalis-like symbiont, possibly representing a transitional stage in the evolutionary succession of symbioses. Phylogenetic analyses including symbionts of other Auchenorrhyncha lineages suggest that Zinderia, like Sulcia, descends from an ancestral symbiont present in the common ancestor of Auchenorrhyncha. This betaproteobacterial symbiont has been repeatedly replaced by other symbionts, such as the Sodalis-like symbiont of spittlebugs. Symbiont replacement may offer a route for hosts to escape dependence on an ancient, degraded and potentially inefficient symbiont.

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