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Journal of insect physiology

Potential role for gut microbiota in cell wall digestion and glucoside detoxification in Tenebrio molitor larvae.


PMID 16600286

Abstract

Tenebrio molitor larvae were successfully reared free of cultivatable gut lumen bacteria, yeasts and fungi using two approaches; aseptic rearing from surface sterilized eggs and by feeding larvae with antibiotic-containing food. Insects were reared on a rich-nutrient complete diet or a nutrient-poor refractory diet. A comparison of digestive enzyme activities in germ free and conventional insects containing a gut microbiota did not reveal gross differences in enzymes that degrade cell walls from bacteria (lysozyme), fungi (chitinase and laminarinase) and plants (cellulase and licheninase). This suggested that microbial-derived enzymes are not an essential component of the digestive process in this insect. However, more detailed analysis of T. molitor midgut proteins using an electrophoretic separation approach showed that some digestive enzymes were absent and others were newly expressed in microbiota-free larvae. Larvae reared in antibiotic-containing refractory wheat bran diet performed poorly in comparison with controls. The addition of saligenin, the aglycone of the plant glucoside salicin, has more deleterious effects on microbiota-free larvae than on the conventionally reared larvae, suggesting a detoxifying role of midgut microbiota. Analysis of the volatile organic compounds released from the faecal pellets of the larvae shows key differences in the profiles from conventionally reared and aseptically reared larvae. Pentadecene is a semiochemical commonly found in other beetle species. Here we demonstrate the absence of pentadecene from aseptically reared larvae in contrast to its presence in conventionally reared larvae. The results are discussed in the light of the hypothesis that microbial products play subtle roles in the life of the insect, they are involved in the digestion of refractory food, detoxification of secondary plant compounds and modify the volatile profiles of the insect host.

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