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Keywords:

  • vertical transfer;
  • horizontal transmission;
  • symbiosis;
  • mutualism;
  • Actinobacteria;
  • Hemiptera

Abstract

Endosymbiotic gut bacteria play an essential role in the nutrition of many insects. Most of the nutritional interactions investigated so far involve gammaproteobacterial symbionts, whereas other groups have received comparatively little attention. Here, we report on the localization and the transmission route of the specific actinobacterial symbiont Coriobacterium glomerans from the gut of the red firebug, Pyrrhocoris apterus (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae). The symbionts were detected by diagnostic PCRs and FISH in the midgut section M3, in the rectum and in feces of the bugs as well as in the hemolymph of some females. Furthermore, adult female bugs apply the symbionts to the surface of the eggs during oviposition, from where they are later taken up by the hatchlings. Surface sterilization of egg clutches generated aposymbiotic insects and thereby confirmed the vertical transmission route via the egg surface. However, symbionts were readily acquired horizontally when the nymphs were reared in the presence of symbiont-containing eggshells, feces, or adult bugs. Using diagnostic PCRs and partial sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, closely related bacterial symbionts were detected in the cotton stainer bug Dysdercus fasciatus (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae), suggesting that the symbiosis with Actinobacteria may be widespread among pyrrhocorid bugs.