2005 Intergrating Ecological, Evolutionary, and Genomic Analysis of Treehopper's Endosymbionts that Mediate Insect Herbivory. (NSC 93WFD0105150)


Many plant-feeding insects such as treehoppers are dependent on bacterial endosymbionts to supplement their nutrition: without symbionts, these treehoppers cannot grow or reproduce. These endosymbionts possess specialized genetic traits that allow them to better nourish their host treehoppers. Although endosymbionts are central in insect-plant interactions, including those affecting agricultural crops and forests like treehoppers, their biology is little known. Symbiosis between insects and bacterial endosymbionts provides a rich testing ground for comparative ecological and evolutionary studies. The proposed work would exploit recent developments in molecular biology to reveal the full range of endosymbiont effects on the biology of treehoppers. Results have the potential of exposing novel, specific methods for insect control that might be less costly or hazardous than commonly used chemical control measures.

Approaches from modern molecular, ecological, evolutionary, and genomics will be used to: 1) investigate the characteristics and transmission pathways of endosymbionts in treehoppers, Gargara genistae; 2) understand the phylogeny, co-evolution of endosymbionts, and their effect on herbivory of host treehoppers within the Membracine treehoppers; 3) explore how gene content and gene structure of long-term endosymbionts affect nutrition and growth of host treehopper, G. genistae. This project will impact several scientific fields, and the findings may provide basic information useful for both environmental and biotechnological applications.

All projects list