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Census Of The Bacterial Community Of The Gypsy Moth Larval Midgut By Using Culturing And Culture-Independent Methods

Nichole A. Broderick, Kenneth F. Raffa, Robert M. Goodman, Jo Handelsman

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ABSTRACT Little is known about bacteria associated with Lepidoptera, the large group of mostly phytophagous insects comprising the moths and butterflies. We inventoried the larval midgut bacteria of a polyphagous foliivore, the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar L.), whose gut is highly alkaline, by using traditional culturing and culture-independent methods. We also examined the effects of diet on microbial composition. Analysis of individual third-instar larvae revealed a high degree of similarity of microbial composition among insects fed on the same diet. DNA sequence analysis indicated that most of the PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes belong to the γ-Proteobacteria and low G+C gram-positive divisions and that the cultured members represented more than half of the phylotypes identified. Less frequently detected taxa included members of the α-Proteobacterium, Actinobacterium, and Cytophaga/Flexibacter/Bacteroides divisions. The 16S rRNA gene sequences from 7 of the 15 cultured organisms and 8 of the 9 sequences identified by PCR amplification diverged from previously reported bacterial sequences. The microbial composition of midguts differed substantially among larvae feeding on a sterilized artificial diet, aspen, larch, white oak, or willow. 16S rRNA analysis of cultured isolates indicated that an Enterococcus species and culture-independent analysis indicated that an Entbacter sp. were both present in all larvae, regardless of the feeding substrate; the sequences of these two phylotypes varied less than 1% among individual insects. These results provide the first comprehensive description of the microbial diversity of a lepidopteran midgut and demonstrate that the plant species in the diet influences the composition of the gut bacterial community.