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Gut microbiota of the pine weevil degrades conifer diterpenes and increases insect fitness

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Berasategui,  Aileen
Department of Biochemistry, Prof. J. Gershenzon, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Research Group Insect Symbiosis, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;
IMPRS on Ecological Interactions, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Salem,  Hassan
Max Planck Research Group Insect Symbiosis, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;
IMPRS on Ecological Interactions, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Paetz,  Christian
Research Group Biosynthesis / NMR, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Santoro,  Maricel
Department of Biochemistry, Prof. J. Gershenzon, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Gershenzon,  Jonathan
Department of Biochemistry, Prof. J. Gershenzon, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Kaltenpoth,  Martin
Max Planck Research Group Insect Symbiosis, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Schmidt,  Axel
Department of Biochemistry, Prof. J. Gershenzon, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Berasategui, A., Salem, H., Paetz, C., Santoro, M., Gershenzon, J., Kaltenpoth, M., et al. (2017). Gut microbiota of the pine weevil degrades conifer diterpenes and increases insect fitness. Molecular Ecology, 26(15), 4099-4110. doi:10.1111/mec.14186.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-A781-5
Abstract
The pine weevil (Hylobius abietis), a major pest of conifer forests throughout Europe, feeds on the bark and cambium, tissues rich in terpenoid resins that are toxic to many insect herbivores. Here we report the ability of the pine weevil gut microbiota to degrade the diterpene acids of Norway spruce. The diterpene acid levels present in ingested bark were substantially reduced on passage through the pine weevil gut. This reduction was significantly less upon antibiotic treatment, and supplementing the diet with gut suspensions from untreated insects restored the ability to degrade diterpenes. In addition, cultured bacteria isolated from pine weevil guts were shown to degrade a Norway spruce diterpene acid. In a metagenomic survey of the insect′s bacterial community, we were able to annotate several genes of a previously described diterpene degradation (dit) gene cluster. Antibiotic treatment disrupted the core bacterial community of H. abietis guts and eliminated nearly all dit-genes concordant with its reduction of diterpene degradation. Pine weevils reared on an artificial diet spiked with diterpenes, but without antibiotics, were found to lay more eggs with a higher hatching rate than weevils raised on diets with antibiotics or without diterpenes. These results suggest that gut symbionts contribute towards host fitness, but not by detoxification of diterpenes, since these compounds do not show toxic effects with or without antibiotics. Rather the ability to thrive in a terpene rich environment appears to allow gut microbes to benefit the weevil in other ways, such as increasing the nutritional properties of their diet.