Cuticle supplementation and nitrogen recycling by a dual bacterial symbiosis in a family of xylophagous beetles

Kiefer et al. (2023). The ISME Journal 17 (7)
Names (4)
Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics Microbiology
AbstractMany insects engage in stable nutritional symbioses with bacteria that supplement limiting essential nutrients to their host. While several plant sap-feeding Hemipteran lineages are known to be simultaneously associated with two or more endosymbionts with complementary biosynthetic pathways to synthesize amino acids or vitamins, such co-obligate symbioses have not been functionally characterized in other insect orders. Here, we report on the characterization of a dual co-obligate, bacteriome-localized symbiosis in a family of xylophagous beetles using comparative genomics, fluorescence microscopy, and phylogenetic analyses. Across the beetle family Bostrichidae, most investigated species harbored the Bacteroidota symbiont Shikimatogenerans bostrichidophilus that encodes the shikimate pathway to produce tyrosine precursors in its severely reduced genome, likely supplementing the beetles’ cuticle biosynthesis, sclerotisation, and melanisation. One clade of Bostrichid beetles additionally housed the co-obligate symbiont Bostrichicola ureolyticus that is inferred to complement the function of Shikimatogenerans by recycling urea and provisioning the essential amino acid lysine, thereby providing additional benefits on nitrogen-poor diets. Both symbionts represent ancient associations within the Bostrichidae that have subsequently experienced genome erosion and co-speciation with their hosts. While Bostrichicola was repeatedly lost, Shikimatogenerans has been retained throughout the family and exhibits a perfect pattern of co-speciation. Our results reveal that co-obligate symbioses with complementary metabolic capabilities occur beyond the well-known sap-feeding Hemiptera and highlight the importance of symbiont-mediated cuticle supplementation and nitrogen recycling for herbivorous beetles.
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