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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51557. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051557. Epub 2012 Dec 10.

Comparative evaluation of the gut microbiota associated with the below- and above-ground life stages (larvae and beetles) of the forest cockchafer, Melolontha hippocastani.

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Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Beutenberg Campus, Jena, Germany.


A comparison of the diversity of bacterial communities in the larval midgut and adult gut of the European forest cockchafer (Melolontha hippocastani) was carried out using approaches that were both dependent on and independent of cultivation. Clone libraries of the 16S rRNA gene revealed 150 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) that belong to 11 taxonomical classes and two other groups that could be classified only to the phylum level. The most abundant classes were β, δ and γ-proteobacteria, Clostridia, Bacilli, Erysipelotrichi and Sphingobacteria. Although the insect's gut is emptied in the prepupal stage and the beetle undergoes a long diapause period, a subset of eight taxonomic classes from the aforementioned eleven were found to be common in the guts of diapausing adults and the larval midguts (L2, L3). Moreover, several bacterial phylotypes belonging to these common bacterial classes were found to be shared by the larval midgut and the adult gut. Despite this, the adult gut bacterial community represented a subset of that found in the larvae midgut. Consequently, the midgut of the larval instars contains a more diverse bacterial community compared to the adult gut. On the other hand, after the bacteria present in the larvae were cultivated, eight bacterial species were isolated. Moreover, we found evidence of the active role of some of the bacterial species isolated in food digestion, namely, the presence of amylase and xylanolytic properties. Finally, fluorescence in situ hybridization allowed us to confirm the presence of selected species in the insect gut and through this, their ecological niche as well as the metagenomic results. The results presented here elucidated the heterogeneity of aerobic and facultative bacteria in the gut of a holometabolous insect species having two different feeding habits.

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