Research Article: The gut microbiota of insecticide-resistant insects houses insecticide-degrading bacteria: A potential source for biotechnological exploitation

Date Published: March 30, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Luis Gustavo de Almeida, Luiz Alberto Beraldo de Moraes, José Roberto Trigo, Celso Omoto, Fernando Luis Cônsoli, Pedro L. Oliveira.


The exploration of new niches for microorganisms capable of degrading recalcitrant molecules is still required. We hypothesized the gut microbiota associated with insect-resistant lines carry pesticide degrading bacteria, and predicted they carry bacteria selected to degrade pesticides they were resistant to. We isolated and accessed the pesticide-degrading capacity of gut bacteria from the gut of fifth instars of Spodoptera frugiperda strains resistant to lambda-cyhalothrin, deltamethrin, chlorpyrifos ethyl, spinosad and lufenuron, using insecticide-selective media. Sixteen isolates belonging to 10 phylotypes were obtained, from which four were also associated with the susceptible strain. However, growth of gut bacteria associated with larvae from the susceptible strain was not obtained in any of the insecticide-based selective media tested. Growth of isolates was affected by the concentration of insecticides in the media, and all grew well up to 40 μg/ml. The insecticide-degrading capacity of selected isolates was assessed by GC or LC-MS/MS analyses. In conclusion, resistant strains of S. frugiperda are an excellent reservoir of insecticide-degrading bacteria with bioremediation potential. Moreover, gut-associated bacteria are subjected to the selection pressure imposed by insecticides on their hosts and may influence the metabolization of pesticides in insects.

Partial Text

Several fitness traits of insects are heavily influenced by associated microbiota [1–3]. The association of insects with microbials is very important for the evolution of ecological features and/or feeding habits in insects. Symbiotic-associated polydnavirus aids in host exploitation by parasitoids [4], and flagellates, bacteria and yeasts allow insects to feed on hard to digest and/or nutritionally-poor diets [5]. Although insects may be associated with a variety of microbials, associations with bacteria are the most spread and common. More we investigate on the role of bacterial associations with insects, more we learn on how diverse their contribution to insects is. While contribution of primary, obligate insect-associated bacteria is basically related to nutrient provisioning to the host insect, secondary, facultatively insect-associated bacteria may influence a range of fitness traits of their host insect, including host nutrition. Secondary bacterial symbionts improve host immune response to entomophages [6–8] and entomopathogens [9–11], influence host plant selection [12], provide protection against heat stress [13], and contribute to the process of detoxification of metabolites produced for plant defense against herbivores [14–16]. The role of microbiota in detoxification of xenobiotics also includes the catabolization of organic molecules employed in applied pest control, as demonstrated by degradation [17,18] or histochemical analyses [14,19].

We demonstrate the gut of insecticide-resistant lines of S. frugiperda is a successful environment for the isolation of insecticide-degrading bacteria, revealing an underexplored niche for the search of microbials targeted to biodegradation applications. All selected bacteria demonstrated continuous growth up to 40 μg/mL, a concentration that is much higher than the CL95 of some of the insecticides tested (e.g. spinosad and lufenuron—CL95 = ~2 μg/mL) and close to the CL50 of others (e.g.lambda-cyhalothrin—CL50 = ~55 μg/mL), demonstrating they would be exposed and able to metabolize the concentrations applied in the field to control S. frugiperda.




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