The bacterial communities in plant phloem-sap-feeding insects

Mol Ecol. 2014 Mar;23(6):1433-44. doi: 10.1111/mec.12637. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


The resident microbiota of animals represents an important contribution to the global microbial diversity, but it is poorly known in many animals. This study investigated the bacterial diversity in plant phloem-sap-feeding whiteflies, aphids and psyllids by pyrosequencing bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicons. After correction for sequencing error, just 3-7 bacterial operational taxonomic units were recovered from each insect sample sequenced to sufficient depth for saturation of rarefaction curves. Most samples were dominated by primary and secondary symbionts, which are localized to insect cells or the body cavity, indicative of a dearth of bacterial colonists of the gut lumen. Diversity indices of the bacterial communities (Shannon's index: 0.40-1.46, Simpson's index: 0.15-0.74) did not differ significantly between laboratory and field samples of the phloem-feeding insects, but were significantly lower than in drosophilid flies quantified by the same methods. Both the low bacterial content of the phloem sap diet and biological processes in the insect may contribute to the apparently low bacterial diversity in these phloem-feeding insects.

Keywords: Acyrthosiphon pisum; Bactericera cockerelli; Bemisia tabaci; Diaphorina citri; bacterial diversity; microbiota; phloem sap; secondary symbiont; symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aphids / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biodiversity
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Hemiptera / microbiology*
  • Microbiota*
  • Phloem
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • SRA/SRP021050