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PloS one

Uncovering the cultivable microbial diversity of costa rican beetles and its ability to break down plant cell wall components.


PMID 25411842

Abstract

Coleopterans are the most diverse insect order described to date. These organisms have acquired an array of survival mechanisms through their evolution, including highly efficient digestive systems. Therefore, the coleopteran intestinal microbiota constitutes an important source of novel plant cell wall-degrading enzymes with potential biotechnological applications. We isolated and described the cultivable fungi, actinomycetes and aerobic eubacteria associated with the gut of larvae and adults from six different beetle families colonizing decomposing logs in protected Costa Rican ecosystems. We obtained 611 isolates and performed phylogenetic analyses using the ITS region (fungi) and 16S rDNA (bacteria). The majority of fungal isolates belonged to the order Hypocreales (26% of 169 total), while the majority of actinomycetes belonged to the genus Streptomyces (86% of 241 total). Finally, we isolated 201 bacteria spanning 19 different families belonging into four phyla: Firmicutes, α, β and γ-proteobacteria. Subsequently, we focused on microbes isolated from Passalid beetles to test their ability to degrade plant cell wall polymers. Highest scores in these assays were achieved by a fungal isolate (Anthostomella sp.), two Streptomyces and one Bacillus bacterial isolates. Our study demonstrates that Costa Rican beetles harbor several types of cultivable microbes, some of which may be involved in symbiotic relationships that enable the insect to digest complex polymers such as lignocellulose.

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