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1.  Effects of the Diet on the Microbiota of the Red Palm Weevil (Coleoptera: Dryophthoridae) 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0117439.
Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, also known as the red palm weevil, is regarded as the major pest of palm trees. Although studies of the microbiota associated with this species have been performed in recent years, little attention has been dedicated to the influence of the diet in shaping the host bacterial community. Here, we investigated the influence of food sources (i.e. palm tissues vs apple based substrate) on the microbial diversity associated with RPW, which was compared with the microbiota associated with wild individuals of the sister species Rhynchophorus vulneratus. The bacterial characterization was performed using a culture independent approach, i.e. the 16S rRNA pyrotag, and a culture dependent approach for a subset of the samples, in order to obtain bacterial isolates from RPW tissues. The bacterial community appeared significantly influenced by diet. Proteobacteria resulted to be the most abundant clade and was present in all the specimens of the three examined weevil groups. Within Proteobacteria, Enterobacteriaceae were identified in all the organs analysed, including hemolymph and reproductive organs. The apple-fed RPWs and the wild R. vulneratus showed a second dominant taxon within Firmicutes that was scarcely present in the microbiota associated with palm-fed RPWs. A comparative analysis on the bacteria associated with the palm tissues highlighted that 12 bacterial genera out of the 13 identified in the plant tissues were also present in weevils, thus indicating that palm tissues may present a source for bacterial acquisition.
PMCID: PMC4311986  PMID: 25635833
2.  Different pioneer plant species select specific rhizosphere bacterial communities in a high mountain environment 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:391.
The rhizobacterial communities of 29 pioneer plants belonging to 12 species were investigated in an alpine ecosystem to assess if plants from different species could select for specific rhizobacterial communities. Rhizospheres and unvegetated soils were collected from a floristic pioneer stage plot at 2,400 m a.s.l. in the forefield of Weisskugel Glacier (Matsch Valley, South Tyrol, Italy), after 160 years of glacier retreat. To allow for a culture-independent perspective, total environmental DNA was extracted from both rhizosphere and bare soil samples and analyzed by Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA) and Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE). ARISA fingerprinting showed that rhizobacterial genetic structure was extremely different from bare soil bacterial communities while rhizobacterial communities clustered strictly together according to the plant species. Sequencing of DGGE bands showed that rhizobacterial communities were mainly composed of Acidobacteria and Proteobacteria whereas bare soil was colonized by Acidobacteria and Clostridia. UniFrac significance calculated on DGGE results confirmed the rhizosphere effect exerted by the 12 species and showed different bacterial communities (P < 0.05) associated with all the plant species. These results pointed out that specific rhizobacterial communities were selected by pioneer plants of different species in a high mountain ecosystem characterized by oligotrophic and harsh environmental conditions, during an early primary succession.
PMCID: PMC4125605  PMID: 25110631
Rhizobacteria; Bacterial community structure; Pioneer plants; Glacier forefields; Alps
3.  Safe-Site Effects on Rhizosphere Bacterial Communities in a High-Altitude Alpine Environment 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:480170.
The rhizosphere effect on bacterial communities associated with three floristic communities (RW, FI, and M sites) which differed for the developmental stages was studied in a high-altitude alpine ecosystem. RW site was an early developmental stage, FI was an intermediate stage, M was a later more matured stage. The N and C contents in the soils confirmed a different developmental stage with a kind of gradient from the unvegetated bare soil (BS) site through RW, FI up to M site. The floristic communities were composed of 21 pioneer plants belonging to 14 species. Automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis showed different bacterial genetic structures per each floristic consortium which differed also from the BS site. When plants of the same species occurred within the same site, almost all their bacterial communities clustered together exhibiting a plant species effect. Unifrac significance value (P < 0.05) on 16S rRNA gene diversity revealed significant differences (P < 0.05) between BS site and the vegetated sites with a weak similarity to the RW site. The intermediate plant colonization stage FI did not differ significantly from the RW and the M vegetated sites. These results pointed out the effect of different floristic communities rhizospheres on their soil bacterial communities.
PMCID: PMC4065744  PMID: 24995302
4.  Are drought-resistance promoting bacteria cross-compatible with different plant models? 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2013;8(10):e26741.
The association between plant and plant growth promoting bacteria (PGPB) contributes to the successful thriving of plants in extreme environments featured by water shortage. We have recently shown that, with respect to the non-cultivated desert soil, the rhizosphere of pepper plants cultivated under desert farming hosts PGPB communities that are endowed with a large portfolio of PGP traits. Pepper plants exposed to bacterial isolates from plants cultivated under desert farming exhibited a higher tolerance to water shortage, compared with untreated control. This promotion was mediated by a larger root system (up to 40%), stimulated by the bacteria, that enhanced plant ability to uptake water from dry soil. We provide initial evidence that the nature of the interaction can have a limited level of specificity and that PGPB isolates may determine resistance to water stress in plants others than the one of the original isolation. It is apparent that, in relation to plant resistance to water stress, a feature of primary evolutionary importance for all plants, a cross-compatibility between PGPB and different plant models exists at least on a short-term.
PMCID: PMC4091069  PMID: 24270625
arid ecosystem; drought tolerance; endosphere; plant growth promoting bacteria; plant-bacteria cross-compatibility; rhizosphere; water stress
5.  Evolution of Mitochondria Reconstructed from the Energy Metabolism of Living Bacteria 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96566.
The ancestors of mitochondria, or proto-mitochondria, played a crucial role in the evolution of eukaryotic cells and derived from symbiotic α-proteobacteria which merged with other microorganisms - the basis of the widely accepted endosymbiotic theory. However, the identity and relatives of proto-mitochondria remain elusive. Here we show that methylotrophic α-proteobacteria could be the closest living models for mitochondrial ancestors. We reached this conclusion after reconstructing the possible evolutionary pathways of the bioenergy systems of proto-mitochondria with a genomic survey of extant α-proteobacteria. Results obtained with complementary molecular and genetic analyses of diverse bioenergetic proteins converge in indicating the pathway stemming from methylotrophic bacteria as the most probable route of mitochondrial evolution. Contrary to other α-proteobacteria, methylotrophs show transition forms for the bioenergetic systems analysed. Our approach of focusing on these bioenergetic systems overcomes the phylogenetic impasse that has previously complicated the search for mitochondrial ancestors. Moreover, our results provide a new perspective for experimentally re-evolving mitochondria from extant bacteria and in the future produce synthetic mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC4013037  PMID: 24804722
6.  Acetic Acid Bacteria Genomes Reveal Functional Traits for Adaptation to Life in Insect Guts 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(4):912-920.
Acetic acid bacteria (AAB) live in sugar rich environments, including food matrices, plant tissues, and the gut of sugar-feeding insects. By comparing the newly sequenced genomes of Asaia platycodi and Saccharibacter sp., symbionts of Anopheles stephensi and Apis mellifera, respectively, with those of 14 other AAB, we provide a genomic view of the evolutionary pattern of this bacterial group and clues on traits that explain the success of AAB as insect symbionts. A specific pre-adaptive trait, cytochrome bo3 ubiquinol oxidase, appears ancestral in AAB and shows a phylogeny that is congruent with that of the genomes. The functional properties of this terminal oxidase might have allowed AAB to adapt to the diverse oxygen levels of arthropod guts.
PMCID: PMC4007555  PMID: 24682158
symbiosis; acetic acid bacteria; cytochrome oxidase
7.  Genetic and Biochemical Diversity of Paenibacillus larvae Isolated from Tunisian Infected Honey Bee Broods 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:479893.
Paenibacillus larvae is the causative agent of American foulbrood (AFB), a virulent disease of honeybee (Apis mellifera) larvae. In Tunisia, AFB has been detected in many beekeeping areas, where it causes important economic losses, but nothing is known about the diversity of the causing agent. Seventy-five isolates of P. larvae, identified by biochemical tests and 16S rRNA gene sequencing, were obtained from fifteen contaminated broods showing typical AFB symptoms, collected in different locations in the northern part of the country. Using BOX-PCR, a distinct profile of P. larvae with respect to related Paenibacillus species was detected which may be useful for its identification. Some P. larvae-specific bands represented novel potential molecular markers for the species. BOX-PCR fingerprints indicated a relatively high intraspecific diversity among the isolates not described previously with several molecular polymorphisms identifying six genotypes on polyacrylamide gel. Polymorphisms were also detected in several biochemical characters (indol production, nitrate reduction, and methyl red and oxidase tests). Contrary to the relatively high intraspecies molecular and phenotypic diversity, the in vivo virulence of three selected P. larvae genotypes did not differ significantly, suggesting that the genotypic/phenotypic differences are neutral or related to ecological aspects other than virulence.
PMCID: PMC3774041  PMID: 24073406
8.  Characterization of the Bacterial Community Associated with Larvae and Adults of Anoplophora chinensis Collected in Italy by Culture and Culture-Independent Methods 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:420287.
The wood-boring beetle Anoplophora chinensis Forster, native to China, has recently spread to North America and Europe causing serious damage to ornamental and forest trees. The gut microbial community associated with these xylophagous beetles is of interest for potential biotechnological applications in lignocellulose degradation and development of pest-control measures. In this study the gut bacterial community of larvae and adults of A. chinensis, collected from different host trees in North Italy, was investigated by both culture and culture-independent methods. Larvae and adults harboured a moderately diverse bacterial community, dominated by Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes. The gammaproteobacterial family Enterobacteriaceae (genera Gibbsiella, Enterobacter, Raoultella, and Klebsiella) was the best represented. The abundance of such bacteria in the insect gut is likely due to the various metabolic abilities of Enterobacteriaceae, including fermentation of carbohydrates derived from lignocellulose degradation and contribution to nitrogen intake by nitrogen-fixing activity. In addition, bacteria previously shown to have some lignocellulose-degrading activity were detected at a relatively low level in the gut. These bacteria possibly act synergistically with endogenous and fungal enzymes in lignocellulose breakdown. The detection of actinobacterial symbionts could be explained by a possible role in the detoxification of secondary plant metabolites and/or protection against pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3771249  PMID: 24069601
9.  Plant Growth Promotion Potential Is Equally Represented in Diverse Grapevine Root-Associated Bacterial Communities from Different Biopedoclimatic Environments 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:491091.
Plant-associated bacteria provide important services to host plants. Environmental factors such as cultivar type and pedoclimatic conditions contribute to shape their diversity. However, whether these environmental factors may influence the plant growth promoting (PGP) potential of the root-associated bacteria is not widely understood. To address this issue, the diversity and PGP potential of the bacterial assemblage associated with the grapevine root system of different cultivars in three Mediterranean environments along a macrotransect identifying an aridity gradient were assessed by culture-dependent and independent approaches. According to 16S rRNA gene PCR-DGGE, the structure of endosphere and rhizosphere bacterial communities was highly diverse (P = 0.03) and was associated with a cultivar/latitudinal/climatic effect. Despite being diverse, the bacterial communities associated with Egyptian grapevines shared a higher similarity with the Tunisian grapevines than those cultivated in North Italy. A similar distribution, according to the cultivar/latitude/aridity gradients, was observed for the cultivable bacteria. Many isolates (23%) presented in vitro multiple stress resistance capabilities and PGP activities, the most frequent being auxin synthesis (82%), insoluble phosphate solubilisation (61%), and ammonia production (70%). The comparable numbers and types of potential PGP traits among the three different environmental settings indicate a strong functional homeostasis of beneficial bacteria associated with grape root.
PMCID: PMC3708380  PMID: 23878810
10.  Interactions between Asaia, Plasmodium and Anopheles: new insights into mosquito symbiosis and implications in Malaria Symbiotic Control 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:182.
Malaria represents one of the most devastating infectious diseases. The lack of an effective vaccine and the emergence of drug resistance make necessary the development of new effective control methods. The recent identification of bacteria of the genus Asaia, associated with larvae and adults of malaria vectors, designates them as suitable candidates for malaria paratransgenic control.
To better characterize the interactions between Asaia, Plasmodium and the mosquito immune system we performed an integrated experimental approach.
Quantitative PCR analysis of the amount of native Asaia was performed on individual Anopheles stephensi specimens. Mosquito infection was carried out with the strain PbGFPCON and the number of parasites in the midgut was counted by fluorescent microscopy.
The colonisation of infected mosquitoes was achieved using GFP or DsRed tagged-Asaia strains.
Reverse transcriptase-PCR analysis, growth and phagocytosis tests were performed using An. stephensi and Drosophila melanogaster haemocyte cultures and DsRed tagged-Asaia and Escherichia coli strains.
Using quantitative PCR we have quantified the relative amount of Asaia in infected and uninfected mosquitoes, showing that the parasite does not interfere with bacterial blooming. The correlation curves have confirmed the active replication of Asaia, while at the same time, the intense decrease of the parasite.
The ‘in vitro’ immunological studies have shown that Asaia induces the expression of antimicrobial peptides, however, the growth curves in conditioned medium as well as a phagocytosis test, indicated that the bacterium is not an immune-target.
Using fluorescent strains of Asaia and Plasmodium we defined their co-localisation in the mosquito midgut and salivary glands.
We have provided important information about the relationship of Asaia with both Plasmodium and Anopheles. First, physiological changes in the midgut following an infected or uninfected blood meal do not negatively affect the residing Asaia population that seems to benefit from this condition. Second, Asaia can act as an immune-modulator activating antimicrobial peptide expression and seems to be adapted to the host immune response. Last, the co-localization of Asaia and Plasmodium highlights the possibility of reducing vectorial competence using bacterial recombinant strains capable of releasing anti-parasite molecules.
PMCID: PMC3708832  PMID: 23777746
Asaia; Plasmodium; Anopheles; Malaria; Haemocytes
11.  Potential for Plant Growth Promotion of Rhizobacteria Associated with Salicornia Growing in Tunisian Hypersaline Soils 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:248078.
Soil salinity and drought are among the environmental stresses that most severely affect plant growth and production around the world. In this study the rhizospheres of Salicornia plants and bulk soils were collected from Sebkhet and Chott hypersaline ecosystems in Tunisia. Depiction of bacterial microbiome composition by Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis unveiled the occurrence of a high bacterial diversity associated with Salicornia root system. A large collection of 475 halophilic and halotolerant bacteria was established from Salicornia rhizosphere and the surrounding bulk soil, and the bacteria were characterized for the resistance to temperature, osmotic and saline stresses, and plant growth promotion (PGP) features. Twenty Halomonas strains showed resistance to a wide set of abiotic stresses and were able to perform different PGP activities in vitro at 5% NaCl, including ammonia and indole-3-acetic acid production, phosphate solubilisation, and potential nitrogen fixation. By using a gfp-labelled strain it was possible to demonstrate that Halomonas is capable of successfully colonising Salicornia roots in the laboratory conditions. Our results indicated that the culturable halophilic/halotolerant bacteria inhabiting salty and arid ecosystems have a potential to contribute to promoting plant growth under the harsh salinity and drought conditions. These halophilic/halotolerant strains could be exploited in biofertilizer formulates to sustain crop production in degraded and arid lands.
PMCID: PMC3679824  PMID: 23781499
12.  Genome Sequence of Radiation-Resistant Modestobacter marinus Strain BC501, a Representative Actinobacterium That Thrives on Calcareous Stone Surfaces 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(17):4773-4774.
Here we report the full genome sequence of Modestobacter marinus strain BC501, an actinobacterial isolate that thrives on stone surfaces. The generated chromosome is circular, with a length of 5.57 Mb and a G+C content of 74.13%, containing 5,445 protein-coding genes, 48 tRNAs, and 3 ribosomal operons.
PMCID: PMC3415492  PMID: 22887672
13.  Draft Genome Sequences of Two Multidrug Resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae ST258 Isolates Resistant to Colistin 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(1):e00113-12.
Sequence type 258 (ST258) is the most widespread multidrug resistant (MDR) Klebsiella pneumoniae strain worldwide. Here, we report the draft genome sequences of two colistin-resistant MDR K. pneumoniae ST258 clinical strains isolated from hospital patients in Italy. These strains are resistant to β-lactams, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, aminoglycosides, macrolides, tetracyclines, carbapenems, and colistin.
PMCID: PMC3569348  PMID: 23405348
14.  Draft Genome of Klebsiella pneumoniae Sequence Type 512, a Multidrug-Resistant Strain Isolated during a Recent KPC Outbreak in Italy 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(1):e00035-12.
Here, we present the draft genome sequence of Klebsiella pneumoniae subsp. pneumoniae sequence type 512 (ST512) isolated during a KPC-producer outbreak. This strain is resistant to β-lactams, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, aminoglycosides, macrolides, tetracyclines, and carbapenems but susceptible to colistin. The ST512-K30BO genome is composed of 289 contigs for 5,392,844 bp with 56.9% G+C content.
PMCID: PMC3569305  PMID: 23405316
15.  Genotypic Diversity, Antibiotic Resistance and Bacteriocin Production of Enterococci Isolated from Rhizospheres 
Microbes and Environments  2012;27(4):533-537.
This study aimed to identify and to characterize rhizospheric-derived enterococci. The results showed the prevalence of Enterococcus faecium species (97%) vs. Enterococcus durans (3%). Susceptibility testing for antibiotics showed a low percentage of resistance to erythromycin (3.2%) and tetracycline (11.2%), and intermediate resistance to vancomycin (6.5%). Nevertheless, a high proportion of bacteriocin production was recorded. Furthermore, PCR detection of antibiotic resistance and bacteriocin production-encoding genes was investigated. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis typing (PFGE) showed a great variability of enterococci in the rhizosphere. Moreover, mutilocus-sequence-typing analysis (MLST) revealed the identification of three new sequence types (STs), which were registered as ST613, ST614 and ST615.
PMCID: PMC4103568  PMID: 23124764
Enterococci; antibiotic resistance; bacteriocins; MLST; PFGE
16.  Genome Sequence of Blastococcus saxobsidens DD2, a Stone-Inhabiting Bacterium 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(10):2752-2753.
Members of the genus Blastococcus have been isolated from sandstone monuments, as well as from sea, soil, plant, and snow samples. We report here the genome sequence of a member of this genus, Blastococcus saxobsidens strain DD2, isolated from below the surface of a Sardinian wall calcarenite stone sample.
PMCID: PMC3347193  PMID: 22535935
17.  A Drought Resistance-Promoting Microbiome Is Selected by Root System under Desert Farming 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48479.
Traditional agro-systems in arid areas are a bulwark for preserving soil stability and fertility, in the sight of “reverse desertification”. Nevertheless, the impact of desert farming practices on the diversity and abundance of the plant associated microbiome is poorly characterized, including its functional role in supporting plant development under drought stress.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We assessed the structure of the microbiome associated to the drought-sensitive pepper plant (Capsicum annuum L.) cultivated in a traditional Egyptian farm, focusing on microbe contribution to a crucial ecosystem service, i.e. plant growth under water deficit. The root system was dissected by sampling root/soil with a different degree of association to the plant: the endosphere, the rhizosphere and the root surrounding soil that were compared to the uncultivated soil. Bacterial community structure and diversity, determined by using Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis, differed according to the microhabitat, indicating a selective pressure determined by the plant activity. Similarly, culturable bacteria genera showed different distribution in the three root system fractions. Bacillus spp. (68% of the isolates) were mainly recovered from the endosphere, while rhizosphere and the root surrounding soil fractions were dominated by Klebsiella spp. (61% and 44% respectively). Most of the isolates (95%) presented in vitro multiple plant growth promoting (PGP) activities and stress resistance capabilities, but their distribution was different among the root system fractions analyzed, with enhanced abilities for Bacillus and the rhizobacteria strains. We show that the C. annuum rhizosphere under desert farming enriched populations of PGP bacteria capable of enhancing plant photosynthetic activity and biomass synthesis (up to 40%) under drought stress.
Crop cultivation provides critical ecosystem services in arid lands with the plant root system acting as a “resource island” able to attract and select microbial communities endowed with multiple PGP traits that sustain plant development under water limiting conditions.
PMCID: PMC3485337  PMID: 23119032
18.  Microbial symbionts: a resource for the management of insect‐related problems 
Microbial Biotechnology  2012;5(3):307-317.
Microorganisms establish with their animal hosts close interactions. They are involved in many aspects of the host life, physiology and evolution, including nutrition, reproduction, immune homeostasis, defence and speciation. Thus, the manipulation and the exploitation the microbiota could result in important practical applications for the development of strategies for the management of insect‐related problems. This approach, defined as ‘Microbial Resource Management’ (MRM), has been applied successfully in various environments and ecosystems, as wastewater treatments, prebiotics in humans, anaerobic digestion and so on. MRM foresees the proper management of the microbial resource present in a given ecosystem in order to solve practical problems through the use of microorganisms. In this review we present an interesting field for application for MRM concept, i.e. the microbial communities associated with arthropods and nematodes. Several examples related to this field of applications are presented. Insect microbiota can be manipulated: (i) to control insect pests for agriculture; (ii) to control pathogens transmitted by insects to humans, animals and plants; (iii) to protect beneficial insects from diseases and stresses. Besides, we prospect further studies aimed to verify, improve and apply MRM by using the insect–symbiont ecosystem as a model.
PMCID: PMC3821675  PMID: 22103294
19.  Delayed larval development in Anopheles mosquitoes deprived of Asaia bacterial symbionts 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12(Suppl 1):S2.
In recent years, acetic acid bacteria have been shown to be frequently associated with insects, but knowledge on their biological role in the arthropod host is limited. The discovery that acetic acid bacteria of the genus Asaia are a main component of the microbiota of Anopheles stephensi makes this mosquito a useful model for studies on this novel group of symbionts. Here we present experimental results that provide a first evidence for a beneficial role of Asaia in An. stephensi.
Larvae of An. stephensi at different stages were treated with rifampicin, an antibiotic effective on wild-type Asaia spp., and the effects on the larval development were evaluated. Larvae treated with the antibiotic showed a delay in the development and an asynchrony in the appearance of later instars. In larvae treated with rifampicin, but supplemented with a rifampicin-resistant mutant strain of Asaia, larval development was comparable to that of control larvae not exposed to the antibiotic. Analysis of the bacterial diversity of the three mosquito populations confirmed that the level of Asaia was strongly decreased in the antibiotic-treated larvae, since the symbiont was not detectable by PCR-DGGE (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis), while Asaia was consistently found in insects supplemented with rifampicin plus the antibiotic-resistant mutant in the diet, and in those not exposed to the antibiotic.
The results here reported indicate that Asaia symbionts play a beneficial role in the normal development of An. stephensi larvae.
PMCID: PMC3287513  PMID: 22375964
20.  Horizontal transmission of the symbiotic bacterium Asaia sp. in the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus Ball (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12(Suppl 1):S4.
Bacteria of the genus Asaia have been recently recognized as secondary symbionts of different sugar-feeding insects, including the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus, vector of Flavescence dorée phytoplasmas. Asaia has been shown to be localized in S. titanus gut, salivary glands and gonoducts and to be maternally transmitted to the progeny by an egg smearing mechanism. It is currently not known whether Asaia in S. titanus is transmitted by additional routes. We performed a study to evaluate if Asaia infection is capable of horizontal transmission via co-feeding and venereal routes.
A Gfp-tagged strain of Asaia was provided to S. titanus individuals to trace the transmission pathways of the symbiotic bacterium. Co-feeding trials showed a regular transfer of bacterial cells from donors to recipients, with a peak of frequency after 72 hours of exposure, and with concentrations of the administrated strain growing over time. Venereal transmission experiments were first carried out using infected males paired with uninfected females. In this case, female individuals acquired Gfp-labelled Asaia, with highest infection rates 72-96 hours after mating and with increasing abundance of the tagged symbiont over time. When crosses between infected females and uninfected males were conducted, the occurrence of “female to male” transmission was observed, even though the transfer occurred unevenly.
The data presented demonstrate that the acetic acid bacterial symbiont Asaia is horizontally transmitted among S. titanus individuals both by co-feeding and venereal transmission, providing one of the few direct demonstrations of such a symbiotic transfer in Hemiptera. This study contributes to the understanding of the bacterial ecology in the insect host, and indicates that Asaia evolved multiple pathways for the colonization of S. titanus body.
PMCID: PMC3287515  PMID: 22376056
21.  Restructuring of Endophytic Bacterial Communities in Grapevine Yellows-Diseased and Recovered Vitis vinifera L. Plants ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(14):5018-5022.
Length heterogeneity-PCR assays, combined with statistical analyses, highlighted that the endophytic bacterial community associated with healthy grapevines was characterized by a greater diversity than that present in diseased and recovered plants. The findings suggest that phytoplasmas can restructure the bacterial community by selecting endophytic strains that could elicit a plant defense response.
PMCID: PMC3147392  PMID: 21622794
22.  Bacterial Endosymbiont Localization in Hyalesthes obsoletus, the Insect Vector of Bois Noir in Vitis vinifera▿  
One emerging disease of grapevine in Europe is Bois noir (BN), a phytoplasmosis caused by “Candidatus Phytoplasma solani” and spread in vineyards by the planthopper Hyalesthes obsoletus (Hemiptera: Cixiidae). Here we present the first full characterization of the bacterial community of this important disease vector collected from BN-contaminated areas in Piedmont, Italy. Length heterogeneity PCR and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis targeting the 16S rRNA gene revealed the presence of a number of bacteria stably associated with the insect vector. In particular, symbiotic bacteria detected by PCR with high infection rates in adult individuals fell within the “Candidatus Sulcia muelleri” cluster in the Bacteroidetes and in the “Candidatus Purcelliella pentastirinorum” group in the Gammaproteobacteria, both previously identified in different leafhoppers and planthoppers. A high infection rate (81%) was also shown for another symbiont belonging to the Betaproteobacteria, designated the HO1-V symbiont. Because of the low level of 16S rRNA gene identity (80%) with the closest relative, an uncharacterized symbiont of the tick Haemaphysalis longicornis, we propose the new name “Candidatus Vidania fulgoroideae.” Other bacterial endosymbionts identified in H. obsoletus were related to the intracellular bacteria Wolbachia pipientis, Rickettsia sp., and “Candidatus Cardinium hertigii.” Fluorescent in situ hybridization coupled with confocal laser scanning microscopy and transmission electron microscopy showed that these bacteria are localized in the gut, testicles, and oocytes. As “Ca. Sulcia” is usually reported in association with other symbiotic bacteria, we propose that in H. obsoletus, it may occur in a bipartite or even tripartite relationship between “Ca. Sulcia” and “Ca. Purcelliella,” “Ca. Vidania,” or both.
PMCID: PMC3067237  PMID: 21183640
23.  Molecular Evidence for Multiple Infections as Revealed by Typing of Asaia Bacterial Symbionts of Four Mosquito Species ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(22):7444-7450.
The recent increased detection of acetic acid bacteria (AAB) of the genus Asaia as symbionts of mosquitoes, such as Anopheles spp. and Aedes spp., prompted us to investigate the diversity of these symbionts and their relationships in different mosquito species and populations. Following cultivation-dependent and -independent techniques, we investigated the microbiota associated with four mosquito species, Anopheles stephensi, Anopheles gambiae, Aedes aegypti, and Aedes albopictus, which are important vectors of human and/or animal pathogens. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis based on the 16S rRNA gene revealed the presence of several bacterial taxa, among which Asaia sequences were among the dominant in most of the samples. A collection of 281 Asaia isolates in cell-free media was established from individuals belonging to the four species. The isolates were typed by internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-PCR, tRNA-PCR, BOX-PCR, and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD)-PCR, revealing that different Asaia strains are present in different mosquito populations, and even in single individuals.
PMCID: PMC2976182  PMID: 20851960
24.  Acetic Acid Bacteria, Newly Emerging Symbionts of Insects▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(21):6963-6970.
Recent research in microbe-insect symbiosis has shown that acetic acid bacteria (AAB) establish symbiotic relationships with several insects of the orders Diptera, Hymenoptera, Hemiptera, and Homoptera, all relying on sugar-based diets, such as nectars, fruit sugars, or phloem sap. To date, the fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster and Bactrocera oleae, mosquitoes of the genera Anopheles and Aedes, the honey bee Apis mellifera, the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus, and the mealybug Saccharicoccus sacchari have been found to be associated with the bacterial genera Acetobacter, Gluconacetobacter, Gluconobacter, Asaia, and Saccharibacter and the novel genus Commensalibacter. AAB establish symbiotic associations with the insect midgut, a niche characterized by the availability of diet-derived carbohydrates and oxygen and by an acidic pH, selective factors that support AAB growth. AAB have been shown to actively colonize different insect tissues and organs, such as the epithelia of male and female reproductive organs, the Malpighian tubules, and the salivary glands. This complex topology of the symbiosis indicates that AAB possess the keys for passing through body barriers, allowing them to migrate to different organs of the host. Recently, AAB involvement in the regulation of innate immune system homeostasis of Drosophila has been shown, indicating a functional role in host survival. All of these lines of evidence indicate that AAB can play different roles in insect biology, not being restricted to the feeding habit of the host. The close association of AAB and their insect hosts has been confirmed by the demonstration of multiple modes of transmission between individuals and to their progeny that include vertical and horizontal transmission routes, comprising a venereal one. Taken together, the data indicate that AAB represent novel secondary symbionts of insects.
PMCID: PMC2976266  PMID: 20851977
25.  Alkalizing Reactions Streamline Cellular Metabolism in Acidogenic Microorganisms 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e15520.
An understanding of the integrated relationships among the principal cellular functions that govern the bioenergetic reactions of an organism is necessary to determine how cells remain viable and optimise their fitness in the environment. Urease is a complex enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of urea to ammonia and carbonic acid. While the induction of urease activity by several microorganisms has been predominantly considered a stress-response that is initiated to generate a nitrogen source in response to a low environmental pH, here we demonstrate a new role of urease in the optimisation of cellular bioenergetics. We show that urea hydrolysis increases the catabolic efficiency of Streptococcus thermophilus, a lactic acid bacterium that is widely used in the industrial manufacture of dairy products. By modulating the intracellular pH and thereby increasing the activity of β-galactosidase, glycolytic enzymes and lactate dehydrogenase, urease increases the overall change in enthalpy generated by the bioenergetic reactions. A cooperative altruistic behaviour of urease-positive microorganisms on the urease-negative microorganisms within the same environment was also observed. The physiological role of a single enzymatic activity demonstrates a novel and unexpected view of the non-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms that govern the bioenergetics of a bacterial cell, highlighting a new role for cytosol-alkalizing biochemical pathways in acidogenic microorganisms.
PMCID: PMC2994868  PMID: 21152088

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