Obligate symbiont involved in pest status of host insect

Takahiro Hosokawa, Yoshitomo Kikuchi, Masakazu Shimada, Takema Fukatsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Citations (Scopus)


The origin of specific insect genotypes that enable efficient use of agricultural plants is an important subject not only in applied fields like pest control and management but also in basic disciplines like evolutionary biology. Conventionally, it has been presupposed that such pest-related ecological traits are attributed to genes encoded in the insect genomes. Here, however, we report that pest status of an insect is principally determined by symbiont genotype rather than by insect genotype. A pest stinkbug species, Megacopta punctatissima, performed well on crop legumes, while a closely related non-pest species, Megacopta cribraria, suffered low egg hatch rate on the plants. When their obligate gut symbiotic bacteria were experimentally exchanged between the species, their performance on the crop legumes was, strikingly, completely reversed: the pest species suffered low egg hatch rate, whereas the non-pest species restored normal egg hatch rate and showed good performance. The low egg hatch rates were attributed to nymphal mortality before or upon hatching, which were associated with the symbiont from the non-pest stinkbug irrespective of the host insect species. Our finding sheds new light on the evolutionary origin of insect pests, potentially leading to novel approaches to pest control and management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1979-1984
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1621
Publication statusPublished - Aug 22 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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