Essential amino acid supplementation by gut microbes of a wood-feeding cerambycid

Paul A. Ayayee, Thomas Larsen, Cristina Rosa, Gary W. Felton, James G. Ferry, Kelli Hoover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Insects are unable to synthesize essential amino acids (EAAs) de novo, thus rely on dietary or symbiotic sources for them. Wood is a poor resource of nitrogen in general, and EAAs in particular. In this study, we investigated whether gut microbiota of the Asian longhorned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky), a cerambycid that feeds in the heartwood of healthy host trees, serve as sources of EAAs to their host under different dietary conditions. δ13C-stable isotope analyses revealed significant δ13C-enrichment (3.4 ± 0.1‰; mean ± SEM) across five EAAs in wood-fed larvae relative to their woody diet. δ13C values for the consumers greater than 1‰ indicate significant contributions from non-dietary EAA sources (symbionts in this case). In contrast, δ13C-enrichment of artificial diet-fed larvae (controls) relative to their food source was markedly less (1.7 ± 0.1‰) than was observed in wood-fed larvae, yet still exceeded the threshold of 1‰. A predictive model based on δ13CEAA signatures of five EAAs from representative bacterial, fungal, and plant samples identified symbiotic bacteria and fungi as the likely supplementary sources of EAA in wood-fed larvae. Using the same model, but with an artificial diet as the dietary source, we identified minor supplementary bacterial sources of EAA in artificial diet-fed larvae. This study highlights how microbes associated with A. glabripennis can serve as a source of EAAs when fed on nutrient-limited diets, potentially circumventing the dietary limitations of feeding on woody substrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental entomology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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