Many plant-sucking stinkbugs possess a specialized symbiotic organ with numerous crypts in a posterior region of the midgut. In stinkbugs of the superfamily Pentatomoidea, specific γ-proteobacteria are hosted in the crypt cavities, which are vertically transmitted through host generations and essential for normal growth and survival of the host insects. Here we report the discovery of an exceptional gut symbiotic association in the saw-toothed stinkbug, Megymenum gracilicorne (Hemiptera: Pentatomoidea: Dinidoridae), in which specific γ-proteobacterial symbionts are not transmitted vertically but acquired environmentally. Histological inspection identified a very thin and long midgut symbiotic organ with two rows of tiny crypts whose cavities harbor rod-shaped bacterial cells. Molecular phylogenetic analyses of bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences from the symbiotic organs of field-collected insects revealed that (i) M. gracilicorne is stably associated with Pantoea-allied γ-proteobacteria within the midgut crypts, (ii) the symbiotic bacteria exhibit a considerable level of diversity across host individuals and populations, (iii) the major symbiotic bacteria represent an environmental bacterial lineage that was reported to be capable of symbiosis with the stinkbug Plautia stali, and (iv) the minor symbiotic bacteria also represent several bacterial lineages that were reported as cultivable symbionts of P. stali and other stinkbugs. The symbiotic bacteria were shown to be generally cultivable. Microbial inspection of ovipositing adult females and their eggs and nymphs uncovered the absence of stable vertical transmission of the symbiotic bacteria. Rearing experiments showed that symbiont-supplemented newborn nymphs exhibit improved survival, suggesting the beneficial nature of the symbiotic association.
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