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Keywords:

  • insect bacteria;
  • Proteobacteria ;
  • Burkholderia ;
  • Pseudomonas ;
  • southern chinch bug;
  • extracellular endosymbionts

Abstract

Dense populations of extracellular bacteria were detected in midgut crypts of the southern chinch bug, Blissus insularis Barber (Hemiptera: Blissidae). Examination by epifluorescent and transmission electron microscopy revealed that the bacteria covered the luminal surface of the crypts and filled the entire lumen. Attempts to culture the extracellular endosymbionts in various media failed. Sequencing and phylogenetic analyses of 16S rRNA gene clones obtained from insects of five Florida populations showed high nucleotide homology to either betaproteobacterial Burkholderia spp. (243 clones from five populations) or gammaproteobacterial Pseudomonas spp. (58 clones from one population). Using Burkholderia-specific primers, bacteria were detected in the egg, nymph, and adult stages. Fluorescent in situ hybridization with genus-specific oligonucleotide probes confirmed the localization of Burkholderia in the crypts. Quantitative real-time PCR showed that antibiotic treatments of nymphs significantly reduced the amount of Burkholderia 16S rRNA gene copies in chinch bugs sampled 11 days after the treatment. Furthermore, these treatments resulted in retarded development and high mortality of B. insularis, indicating a beneficial impact of Burkholderia on its host.