Comparative genomics of a quadripartite symbiosis in a planthopper host reveals the origins and rearranged nutritional responsibilities of anciently diverged bacterial lineages

Environ Microbiol. 2018 Dec;20(12):4461-4472. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.14367. Epub 2018 Oct 2.


Insects in the Auchenorrhyncha (Hemiptera: Suborder) established nutritional symbioses with bacteria approximately 300 million years ago (MYA). The suborder split early during its diversification (~ 250 MYA) into the Fulgoroidea (planthoppers) and Cicadomorpha (leafhoppers and cicadas). The two lineages share some symbionts, including Sulcia and possibly a Betaproteobacteria that collaboratively provide their hosts with 10 essential amino acids (EAA). Some hosts harbour three bacteria, as is common among planthoppers. However, genomic studies are currently restricted to the dual-bacterial symbioses found in Cicadomorpha, leaving the origins and functions of these more complex symbioses unclear. To address these questions, we sequenced the genomes and performed phylogenomic analyses of 'Candidatus Sulcia muelleri' (Bacteroidetes), 'Ca. Vidania fulgoroideae' (Betaproteobacteria) and 'Ca. Purcelliella pentastirinorum' (Gammaproteobacteria) from a planthopper (Cixiidae: Oliarus). In contrast to the Cicadomorpha, nutritional synthesis responsibilities are rearranged between the cixiid symbionts. Although Sulcia has a highly conserved genome across the Auchenorrhyncha, in the cixiids it is greatly reduced and provides only three EAAs. Vidania contributes the remaining seven EAAs. Phylogenomic results suggest that it represents an ancient symbiont lineage paired with Sulcia throughout the Auchenorrhyncha. Finally, Purcelliella was recently acquired from plant-insect associated bacteria (Pantoea-Erwinia) to provide B vitamins and metabolic support to its degenerate partners.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacteroidetes / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Betaproteobacteria / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gammaproteobacteria / genetics
  • Genomics
  • Hemiptera / metabolism
  • Hemiptera / microbiology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Symbiosis*