The B vitamin nutrition of insects: the contributions of diet, microbiome and horizontally acquired genes

Curr Opin Insect Sci. 2017 Oct;23:65-69. doi: 10.1016/j.cois.2017.07.012. Epub 2017 Aug 3.


Insects generally cannot synthesize eight B vitamins that function as co-enzymes in various required enzymatic reactions. Most insects derive their B vitamin requirements from the diet, microbial symbionts, or a combination of these complementary sources. Exceptionally, the genomes of a few insects bear genes in vitamin B5 (pantothenate) and B7 (biotin) synthesis, horizontally acquired from bacteria. Biomarkers of B vitamin deficiency (e.g. vitamin titers, activity of vitamin-dependent enzymes) offer routes to investigate the incidence and the physiological and fitness consequences of B vitamin deficiency in laboratory and field populations of insects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / metabolism
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Vitamin B Complex / biosynthesis
  • Vitamin B Complex / metabolism*
  • Vitamin B Deficiency


  • Vitamin B Complex