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BMC Microbiol. 2018 Nov 23;18(Suppl 1):145. doi: 10.1186/s12866-018-1292-7.

Effect of antibiotic treatment and gamma-irradiation on cuticular hydrocarbon profiles and mate choice in tsetse flies (Glossina m. morsitans).

Author information

1
Insect Symbiosis Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany. tengl@uni-mainz.de.
2
Department for Evolutionary Ecology, Institute for Organismic and Molecular Evolution, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz, Germany. tengl@uni-mainz.de.
3
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA.
4
Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia.
5
Present Address: Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA.
6
Insect Pest Control Laboratory, Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food & Agriculture, Vienna, Austria.
7
Institute of Chemical, Environmental and Biological Engineering, Research Area Biochemical Technology, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria.
8
Laboratories of Genome Dynamics, Department Cell and Developmental Biology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
9
Insect Symbiosis Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany. mkaltenpoth@uni-mainz.de.
10
Department for Evolutionary Ecology, Institute for Organismic and Molecular Evolution, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz, Germany. mkaltenpoth@uni-mainz.de.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Symbiotic microbes represent a driving force of evolutionary innovation by conferring novel ecological traits to their hosts. Many insects are associated with microbial symbionts that contribute to their host's nutrition, digestion, detoxification, reproduction, immune homeostasis, and defense. In addition, recent studies suggest a microbial involvement in chemical communication and mating behavior, which can ultimately impact reproductive isolation and, hence, speciation. Here we investigated whether a disruption of the microbiota through antibiotic treatment or irradiation affects cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, and possibly mate choice behavior in the tsetse fly, Glossina morsitans morsitans. Four independent experiments that differentially knock down the multiple bacterial symbionts of tsetse flies were conducted by subjecting tsetse flies to ampicillin, tetracycline, or gamma-irradiation and analyzing their cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in comparison to untreated controls by gas chromatography - mass spectrometry. In two of the antibiotic experiments, flies were mass-reared, while individual rearing was done for the third experiment to avoid possible chemical cross-contamination between individual flies.

RESULTS:

All three antibiotic experiments yielded significant effects of antibiotic treatment (particularly tetracycline) on cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in both female and male G. m. morsitans, while irradiation itself had no effect on the CHC profiles. Importantly, tetracycline treatment reduced relative amounts of 15,19,23-trimethyl-heptatriacontane, a known compound of the female contact sex pheromone, in two of the three experiments, suggesting a possible implication of microbiota disturbance on mate choice decisions. Concordantly, both female and male flies preferred non-treated over tetracycline-treated flies in direct choice assays.

CONCLUSIONS:

While we cannot exclude the possibility that antibiotic treatment had a directly detrimental effect on fly vigor as we are unable to recolonize antibiotic treated flies with individual symbiont taxa, our results are consistent with an effect of the microbiota, particularly the obligate nutritional endosymbiont Wigglesworthia, on CHC profiles and mate choice behavior. These findings highlight the importance of considering host-microbiota interactions when studying chemical communication and mate choice in insects.

KEYWORDS:

Cuticular hydrocarbons; Endosymbiont; Glossina morsitans; Mate choice; Tsetse; Wigglesworthia

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