Co-Occurrence of Viruses, Plant Pathogens, and Symbionts in an Underexplored Hemipteran Clade
Salazar, McKinlee M.
Pupo, Mônica T.
Brown, Amanda M.V.
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Interactions between insect symbionts and plant pathogens are dynamic and complex, sometimes involving direct antagonism or synergy and sometimes involving ecological and evolutionary leaps, as insect symbionts transmit through plant tissues or plant pathogens transition to become insect symbionts. Hemipterans such as aphids, whiteflies, psyllids, leafhoppers, and planthoppers are well-studied plant pests that host diverse symbionts and vector plant pathogens. The related hemipteran treehoppers (family Membracidae) are less well-studied but offer a potentially new and diverse array of symbionts and plant pathogenic interactions through their distinct woody plant hosts and ecological interactions with diverse tending hymenopteran taxa. To explore membracid symbiont–pathogen diversity and co-occurrence, this study performed shotgun metagenomic sequencing on 20 samples (16 species) of treehopper, and characterized putative symbionts and pathogens using a combination of rapid blast database searches and phylogenetic analysis of assembled scaffolds and correlation analysis. Among the 8.7 billion base pairs of scaffolds assembled were matches to 9 potential plant pathogens, 12 potential primary and secondary insect endosymbionts, numerous bacteriophages, and other viruses, entomopathogens, and fungi. Notable discoveries include a divergent Brenneria plant pathogen-like organism, several bee-like Bombella and Asaia strains, novel strains of Arsenophonus-like and Sodalis-like symbionts, Ralstonia sp. and Ralstonia-type phages, Serratia sp., and APSE-type phages and bracoviruses. There were several short Phytoplasma and Spiroplasma matches, but there was no indication of plant viruses in these data. Clusters of positively correlated microbes such as yeast-like symbionts and Ralstonia, viruses and Serratia, and APSE phage with parasitoid-type bracoviruses suggest directions for future analyses. Together, results indicate membracids offer a rich palette for future study of symbiont–plant pathogen interactions.