Hawaiian Nysius Insects Rely on an Obligate Symbiont with a Reduced Genome That Retains a Discrete Nutritional Profile to Match Their Plant Seed Diet

Genome Biol Evol. 2021 Sep 1;13(9):evab189. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evab189.


Seed-feeding Nysius insects (Hemiptera: Lygaeidae) have a symbiotic association with distinct intracellular bacteria, "Candidatus Schneideria nysicola" (Gammaproteobacteria). Although many other hemipteran insect groups generally rely on bacterial symbionts that synthesize all ten essential amino acids lacking in their plant sap diets, the nutritional role of Schneideria in Nysius hosts that specialize on a more nutritionally complete seed-based diet has remained unknown. To determine the nutritional and functional capabilities of Schneideria, we sequenced the complete Schneideria genomes from three distantly related endemic Hawaiian Nysius seed bug species. The complete Schneideria genomes are highly conserved and perfectly syntenic among Hawaiian Nysius host species. Each circular chromosome is ∼0.57 Mb in size and encodes 537 protein-coding genes. They further exhibit a strong A + T nucleotide substitution bias with an average G + C nucleotide content of 29%. The predicted nutritional contribution of Schneideria includes four B vitamins and five of the ten essential amino acids that likely match its hosts' seed-based diet. Disrupted and degraded genes in Schneideria suggests that Hawaiian lineages are undergoing continued gene losses observed in the smaller genomes of the other more ancient hemipteran symbionts.

Keywords: Heteroptera; amino acids; genome size; intracellular bacteria; nutrition; symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Hawaii
  • Hemiptera* / genetics
  • Hemiptera* / microbiology
  • Heteroptera* / genetics
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Symbiosis / genetics