Switching to a new host plant is a driving force for divergence and speciation in herbivorous insects. This process of incorporating a novel host plant into the diet may require a number of adaptations in the insect herbivores that allow them to consume host plant tissue that may contain toxic secondary chemicals. As a result, herbivorous insects are predicted to have evolved efficient ways to detoxify major plant defences and increase fitness by either relying on their own genomes or by recruiting other organisms such as microbial gut symbionts. In the present study we used parallel metatranscriptomic analyses of Altica flea beetles and their gut symbionts to explore the contributions of beetle detoxification mechanisms versus detoxification by their gut consortium. We compared the gut meta-transcriptomes of two sympatric Altica species that feed exclusively on different host plant species as well as their F1 hybrids that were fed one of the two host plant species. These comparisons revealed that gene expression patterns of Altica are dependent on both beetle species identity and diet. The community structure of gut symbionts was also dependent on the identity of the beetle species, and the gene expression patterns of the gut symbionts were significantly correlated with beetle species and plant diet. Some of the enriched genes identified in the beetles and gut symbionts are involved in the degradation of secondary metabolites produced by plants, suggesting that Altica flea beetles may use their gut microbiota to help them feed on and adapt to their host plants.
- gut symbiont
- host use
- secondary metabolites
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics