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Background: A chemical cross-talk between plants and insects is required in order to achieve a successful co-adaptation. In response to herbivory, plants produce specific compounds, and feeding insects respond adequately7 to molecules produced by plants. Here we show the role of the gut microbial community of the mint beetle Chrysolina herbacea in the chemical cross-talk with Mentha aquatica (or watermint). Results: By using two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry we first evaluated the chemical patterns of both M. aquatica leaf and frass volatiles extracted by C. herbacea males and females feeding on plants, and observed marked differences between males and females volatiles. The sex-specific chemical pattern of the frass paralleled with sex-specific distribution of cultivable gut bacteria. Indeed, all isolated gut bacteria from females belonged to either α- or γ-Proteobacteria, whilst those from males were γ-Proteobacteria or Firmicutes. We then demonstrated that five Serratia marcescens strains from females possessed antibacterial activity against bacteria from males belonging to Firmicutes suggesting competition by production of antimicrobial compounds. By in vitro experiments, we lastly showed that the microbial communities from the two sexes were associated to specific metabolic patterns with respect to their ability to biotransform M. aquatica terpenoids, and metabolize them into an array of compounds with possible pheromone activity. Conclusions: Our data suggest that cultivable gut bacteria of Chrysolina herbacea males and females influence the volatile blend of herbivory induced Mentha aquatica volatiles in a sex-specific way.
Pizzolante, G., Cordero, C., Tredici, S. M., Vergara, D., Pontieri, P., Del Giudice, L., … Alifano, P. (2017). Cultivable gut bacteria provide a pathway for adaptation of Chrysolina herbacea to Mentha aquatica volatiles. BMC Plant Biology, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-017-0986-6