This article is part of the supplement: Arthropod symbioses: from fundamental studies to pest and disease management

Open Access Research

Host gene response to endosymbiont and pathogen in the cereal weevil Sitophilus oryzae

Aurélien Vigneron1, Delphine Charif2, Carole Vincent-Monégat1, Agnès Vallier1, Frédérick Gavory3, Patrick Wincker3 and Abdelaziz Heddi1*

Author Affiliations

1 INSA-Lyon, UMR203 BF2I, INRA, Biologie Fonctionnelle Insectes et Interactions, Bat. Louis-Pasteur 20 ave. Albert Einstein, F-69621 Villeurbanne, France

2 UMR CNRS 5558 Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, Université Claude Bernard Lyon, F-69621 Villeurbanne, France

3 Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique (CEA), Genoscope (Centre National de Séquençage), 2 rue Gaston Crémieux, CP 5706, 91,057 Evry Cedex, France

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BMC Microbiology 2012, 12(Suppl 1):S14  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-S1-S14

Published: 18 January 2012



Insects thriving on nutritionally poor habitats have integrated mutualistic intracellular symbiotic bacteria (endosymbionts) in a bacteria-bearing tissue (the bacteriome) that isolates the endosymbionts and protects them against a host systemic immune response. Whilst the metabolic and physiological features of long-term insect associations have been investigated in detail over the past decades, cellular and immune regulations that determine the host response to endosymbionts and pathogens have attracted interest more recently.


To investigate bacteriome cellular specificities and weevil immune responses to bacteria, we have constructed and sequenced 7 cDNA libraries from Sitophilus oryzae whole larvae and bacteriomes. Bioinformatic analysis of 26,886 ESTs led to the generation of 8,941 weevil unigenes. Based on in silico analysis and on the examination of genes involved in the cellular pathways of potential interest to intracellular symbiosis (i.e. cell growth and apoptosis, autophagy, immunity), we have selected and analyzed 29 genes using qRT-PCR, taking into consideration bacteriome specificity and symbiosis impact on the host response to pathogens. We show that the bacteriome tissue accumulates transcripts from genes involved in cellular development and survival, such as the apoptotic inhibitors iap2 and iap3, and endosomal fusion and trafficking, such as Rab7, Hrs, and SNARE. As regards our investigation into immunity, we first strengthen the bacteriome immunomodulation previously reported in S. zeamais. We show that the sarcotoxin, the c-type lysozyme, and the wpgrp2 genes are downregulated in the S. oryzae bacteriome, when compared to aposymbiotic insects and insects challenged with E. coli. Secondly, transcript level comparison between symbiotic and aposymbiotic larvae provides evidence that the immune systemic response to pathogens is decreased in symbiotic insects, as shown by the relatively high expression of wpgrp2, wpgrp3, coleoptericin-B, diptericin, and sarcotoxin genes in aposymbiotic insects.


Library sequencing significantly increased the number of unigenes, allowing for improved functional and genetic investigations in the cereal weevil S. oryzae. Transcriptomic analyses support selective and local immune gene expression in the bacteriome tissue and uncover cellular pathways that are of potential interest to bacteriocyte survival and homeostasis. Bacterial challenge experiments have revealed that the systemic immune response would be less induced in a symbiotic insect, thus highlighting new perspectives on host immunity in long-term invertebrate co-evolutionary associations.