DEC 09, 2015 08:14 AM PST

Gut Bacteria Help Cockroaches Communicate

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
Animals aren’t the only organisms with complex microbiomes.  Like humans, insects house a variety of bacteria in their guts.  Nitrogen-fixing bacteria live in the guts of termites, honey bees carry around lactic acid-producing bacteria, and species of Wolbachia actually determine the sex of some insects.

Researchers at North Carolina State University knew that gut bacteria influence the production of pheromones in insects such as Drosophila, grass grub beetles, and locusts.  They also knew that German cockroaches aggregate together in response to pheromones in feces.  So, they hypothesized that gut bacteria might help cockroaches produce aggregation-inducing pheromones.
 
Cockroaches aggregate in response to pheromones.

The pheromones produced by the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, contain volatile carboxylic acids (VCAs). The researchers, led by Ayako Wada-Katsumata, identified 40 VCAs in roach feces that contained gut bacteria, whereas roaches without bacteria lacked 12 of these VCAs.  This suggested that the bacteria were somehow responsible for producing the roach pheromones.  

To determine if the bacteria contributed to VCA production and thus to aggregation, the group isolated and cultured aerobic fecal bacteria from the roaches.  Then, they inoculated germ-free roaches with the bacteria.  The roaches aggregated more effectively in response to feces containing bacteria than to control, germ-free feces.  They also aggregated more effectively when germ-free roaches were inoculated with six bacterial taxa as opposed to just one.

It’s still not clear how the VCAs are produced.  The bacteria may produce them, or the roaches may produce them in response to the bacteria.  Either way, these results could help pest control experts design better traps and bait to treat roach infestations.  

Sources: Eurekalert, PNAS
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
OCT 22, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 22, 2019
Revealing Protein Interactions by Studying the Genome
Having an understanding of biology requires revealing the relationships and interactions between proteins....
OCT 22, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 22, 2019
Disruptions in the Infant Gut Microbiome Linked to Growth Delays
When the microbiome fails to develop properly, it can impair a child's ability to thrive....
OCT 22, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 22, 2019
Parasitic Worm Capable of Infecting People Now Found in Dogs
There are some small roundworms, also called nematodes, in the genus Strongyloides that can infect animals. Two species can infect people....
OCT 22, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 22, 2019
Acute Flaccid Myelitis and Its Association With Enterovirus D68
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a polio-like infection, caught the attention of physicians in the U.S. during late summer and early fall in 2014. The outbrea...
OCT 22, 2019
Immunology
OCT 22, 2019
Your Immune Response Varies from AM to PM
“My biological clock is ticking.” We’ve heard people say this phrase - maybe even said it ourselves - but what do we mean exactly? Often...
OCT 22, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 22, 2019
Potential New Antibiotic Discovered in Soil-Dwelling Microbe
Many of our best antibiotics have come from microbes, which have to use them to battle other microorganisms in a struggle for resources....
Loading Comments...