Gut bacteria facilitate adaptation to crop rotation in the western corn rootworm

Chia Ching Chu, Joseph L. Spencer, Matías J. Curzi, Jorge A. Zavala, Manfredo J. Seufferheld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insects are constantly adapting to human-driven landscape changes; however, the roles of their gut microbiota in these processes remain largely unknown. The western corn rootworm (WCR, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) is amajor corn pest that has been controlled via annual rotation between corn (Zea mays) and nonhost soybean (Glycine max) in the United States. This practice selected for a 'rotation-resistant' variant (RR-WCR) with reduced ovipositional fidelity to cornfields.When in soybean fields, RRWCRs also exhibit an elevated tolerance of antiherbivory defenses (i.e., cysteine protease inhibitors) expressed in soybean foliage. Here we show that gut bacterial microbiota is an important factor facilitating this corn specialist's (WCR's) physiological adaptation to brief soybean herbivory. Comparisons of gut microbiota between RR- and wild-type WCR (WT-WCR) revealed concomitant shifts in bacterial community structure with host adaptation to soybean diets. Antibiotic suppression of gut bacteria significantly reduced RR-WCR tolerance of soybean herbivory to the level of WT-WCR, whereas WTWCR were unaffected. Our findings demonstrate that gut bacteria help to facilitate rapid adaptation of insects inmanaged ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11917-11922
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 16 2013


  • Anthropogenic Disturbance
  • Contemporary Evolution
  • Dietary Stress
  • Digestive Enzymes
  • Host-Microbe Interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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