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J Chem Ecol. 2011 Aug;37(8):808-17. doi: 10.1007/s10886-011-9992-6. Epub 2011 Jun 28.

Responses of bark beetle-associated bacteria to host monoterpenes and their relationship to insect life histories.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1630 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Bark beetles that colonize living conifers and their microbial associates encounter constitutive and induced chemical defenses of their host. Monoterpene hydrocarbons comprise a major component of these allelochemicals, and many are antibiotic to insects, fungi, and bacteria. Some bark beetle species exhaust these defenses by killing their host through mass attacks mediated by aggregation pheromones. Others lack adult aggregation pheromones and do not engage in pheromone-mediated mass attacks, but rather have the ability to complete development within live hosts. In the former species, the larvae develop in tissue largely depleted of host terpenes, whereas in the latter exposure to these compounds persists throughout development. A substantial literature exists on how monoterpenes affect bark beetles and their associated fungi, but little is known of how they affect bacteria, which in turn can influence beetle performance in various manners. We tested several bacteria from two bark beetle species for their ability to grow in the presence of a diversity of host monoterpenes. Bacteria were isolated from the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, which typically kills trees during colonization, and the red turpentine beetle, Dendroctonus valens LeConte, which often lives in their host without causing mortality. Bacteria from D. ponderosae were gram-positive Actinobacteria and Bacilli; one yeast also was tested. Bacteria from D. valens were Actinobacteria, Bacilli, and γ-Proteobacteria. Bacteria from D. valens were more tolerant of monoterpenes than were those from D. ponderosae. Bacteria from D. ponderosae did not grow in the presence of α-pinene and 3-carene, and grew in, but were inhibited by, β-pinene and β-phellandrene. Limonene and myrcene had little inhibitory effect on bacteria from either beetle species. Tolerance to these antibiotic compounds appears to have resulted from adaptation to living in a terpene-rich environment.

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