Infection dynamics of coexisting beta- and gammaproteobacteria in the nested endosymbiotic system of mealybugs

  • Kono M
  • Koga R
  • Shimada M
 et al. 
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We investigated the infection dynamics of endosymbiotic bacteria in the developmental course of the mealybugs Planococcus kraunhiae and Pseudococcus comstocki. Molecular phylogenetic analyses identified a betaproteobacterium and a gammaproteobacterium from each of the mealybug species. The former bacterium was related to the beta-endosymbionts of other mealybugs, i.e., "Candidatus Tremblaya princeps," and formed a compact clade in the Betaproteobacteria. Meanwhile, the latter bacterium was related to the gamma-endosymbionts of other mealybugs but belonged to distinct clades in the Gammaproteobacteria. Whole-mount in situ hybridization confirmed the peculiar nested formation in the endosymbiotic system of the mealybugs: the beta-endosymbiont cells were present in the cytoplasm of the bacteriocytes, and the gamma-endosymbiont cells were located in the beta-endosymbiont cells. In nymphal and female development, a large oval bacteriome consisting of a number of bacteriocytes was present in the abdomen, wherein the endosymbionts were harbored. In male development, strikingly, the bacteriome progressively degenerated in prepupae and pupae and became almost unrecognizable in adult males. In the degeneration process, the gamma-endosymbionts disappeared more rapidly than the beta-endosymbionts did. Quantitative PCR analyses revealed that (i) the population dynamics of the endosymbionts in female development reflected the reproductive activity of the insects, (ii) the population dynamics of the endosymbionts were strikingly different between female development and male development, (iii) the endosymbiont populations drastically decreased in male development, and (iv) the gamma-endosymbiont populations decreased more rapidly than the beta-endosymbiont populations in male development. Possible mechanisms underlying the uncoupled regulation of the beta- and gamma-endosymbiont populations are discussed in relation to the establishment and evolution of this unique prokaryote-prokaryote endosymbiotic system.

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  • Marie Kono

  • Ryuichi Koga

  • Masakazu Shimada

  • Takema Fukatsu

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