Deep Characterization of the Microbiomes of Calophya spp. (Hemiptera: Calophyidae) Gall-Inducing Psyllids Reveals the Absence of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria and Three Dominant Endosymbionts.
journal contributionposted on 21.01.2016, 00:00 by WA Overholt, R. Diaz, E. Rosskopf, SJ Green
Bacteria associated with sap-feeding insect herbivores include not only symbionts that may increase their hosts’ fitness but also harmful plant pathogens. Calophya spp. gall-inducing psyllids (Hemiptera: Calophyidae) are being investigated for their potential as biological control agents of the noxious weed, Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia), in Florida. Although there are no examples of plant pathogen transmission by members of the family Calophyidae, several insects in the superfamily Psylloidea are known to transmit pathogenic bacteria in the genera Candidatus Liberibacter and Candidatus Phytoplasma. To determine whether Calophya spp. harbor potentially harmful plant pathogenic bacteria, we sequenced small subunit (SSU) ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene amplicons generated from individuals from four Calophya spp. populations. All microbial SSU gene sequences fell into the bacterial domain, with 98-99% belonging to the Proteobacteria. The Calophya microbiomes contained a relatively simple community, with 49-79 operational taxonomic units (OTUs; 97%) detected, and only 5-8 OTUs with greater than 1% abundance. Candidatus Carsonella showed the highest relative abundance, with OTUs from this candidate genus representing between 51 – 65% of all recovered sequences. The next most abundant clade observed was an unclassified Enterobacteriacae group closely related to bacteria from the genera Buchnera and Blochmannia that ranged from 20-31% in relative abundance. Wolbachia populations were the third most abundant group and represented 7-27% of the diversity in microbial OTUs. No SSU rRNA gene sequences from putative pathogenic bacteria from the genera Ca. Liberibacter or Ca. Phytoplasma were detected in the microbiomes of the four Calophya populations. The probability that infected psyllids were present in our colonies, but were not sampled, was extremley low (1.39 x 10-10). As far as we are aware, our study is the first to characterize the microbiome of a candidate biological control agent, and coupled with previous work demonstrating a high degree of host specificity and absence of plant viruses, suggests that releasing Calophya spp. in United States poses minimal risk to non-target plants.