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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Jun 8;96(12):6814-9.

Four intracellular genomes direct weevil biology: nuclear, mitochondrial, principal endosymbiont, and Wolbachia.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Appliquée, Institut National des Sciences Appliquées-Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique Unité Associée 203, France.


Cell physiology in the weevil Sitophilus oryzae is coordinated by three integrated genomes: nuclear, mitochondrial, and the "S. oryzae principal endosymbiont" (SOPE). SOPE, a cytoplasmic bacterium (2 x 10(3) bacteria per specialized bacteriocyte cell and 3 x 10(6) bacteria per weevil) that belongs to the proteobacteria gamma3-subgroup, is present in all weevils studied. We discovered a fourth prokaryotic genome in somatic and germ tissues of 57% of weevil strains of three species, S. oryzae, Sitophilus zeamais, and Sitophilus granarius, distributed worldwide. We assigned this Gram-negative prokaryote to the Wolbachia group (alpha-proteobacteria), on the basis of 16S rDNA sequence and fluorescence in situ DNA-RNA hybridization (FISH). Both bacteria, SOPE and Wolbachia, were selectively eliminated by combined heat and antibiotic treatments. Study of bacteria involvement in this insect's genetics and physiology revealed that SOPE, which induces the specific differentiation of the bacteriocytes, increases mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation through the supply of pantothenic acid and riboflavin. Elimination of this gamma3-proteobacterium impairs many physiological traits. By contrast, neither the presence nor the absence of Wolbachia significantly affects the weevil's physiology. Wolbachia, disseminated throughout the body cells, is in particularly high density in the germ cells, where it causes nucleocytoplasmic incompatibility. The coexistence of two distinct types of intracellular proteobacteria at different levels of symbiont integration in insects illustrates the genetic complexity of animal tissue. Furthermore, evolutionary timing can be inferred: first nucleocytoplasm, then mitochondria, then SOPE, and finally Wolbachia. Symbiogenesis, the genetic integration of long-term associated members of different species, in the weevil appears to be a mechanism of speciation (with Wolbachia) and provides a means for animals to acquire new genes that permit better adaptation to the environment (with SOPE).

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