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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Valérie Lopez

Influence of the microbiota on a phytophagous insect: interactions between Delia radicum and its intra and extracellular symbionts

Thesis started 2015, Defended in November, 30th
Funding: MESR
Direction: Denis Poinsot, Anne-Marie Cortesero


Keywords: Delia radicum, Wolbachia, symbiont, microbiota, antibiotic, life history traits, Brassica, glucosinolates, volatiles

Abstract: Microbial symbionts can deeply influence their animal hosts in various ways. Here, we studied the community of microbes of the cabbage root fly (Delia radicum) and more precisely the role of its gut microbiota and of Wolbachia, an intracellular bacterium. The vertical maternal transmission of Wolbachia was perfect, and we found no evidence of manipulation of reproduction such as cytoplasmic incompatibility, thelytokous parthenogenesis, feminization nor male killing. Wolbachia infection had significant but moderate and mutually compensating effects on D. radicum (reduced hatch rate, improved larvo-nymphal viability, longer development time and increased female mortality in stress conditions), suggesting that infection might be nearly neutral in this strain, although we observed an increase in infection frequency in ideal rearing conditions. The influence of the gut microbiota was studied using an antibiotic, tetracycline, with a protocol spanning three generations, which allowed to discriminate the possible direct (toxic) effect of tetracycline from its indirect effects (due to the loss of gut symbionts). Antibiotic treatment of adults led to multiple and mostly negative effects on life history traits of their offspring and grandchildren. Data suggested a larger role of gut microbiota perturbation than of a toxic effect, that the microbiota was partially inherited maternally, and that the “wild-type” gut microbiota was beneficial in this species. Finally, we investigated whether Wolbachia could modify the insect-plant dialogue between D. radicum larvae feeding on roots of oilseed rape (Brassica napus). The presence of the symbiont decreased glucosinolate concentrations in the leaves, suggesting that Wolbachia could increase the fitness of its host by decreasing plant cues used by D. radicum conspecifics and/or natural enemies. This study showed the potential of an intracellular bacteria to influence plant-insect relationships, and allowed to discuss the tri-trophic interactions between symbionts, their insect hosts and a third trophic level: the plant. This thesis demonstrates the necessity to consider intracellular and extracellular symbionts in further studies, in order to unravel all the possible relationships between different partners, as well as their ecological or evolutionary implications.

Poster pdf