Diversification of endosymbiosis: Replacements, co-speciation and promiscuity of bacteriocyte symbionts in weevils

Hirokazu Toju, Akifumi S. Tanabe, Yutaka Notsu, Teiji Sota, Takema Fukatsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


The processes and mechanisms underlying the diversification of host-microbe endosymbiotic associations are of evolutionary interest. Here we investigated the bacteriocyte-associated primary symbionts of weevils wherein the ancient symbiont Nardonella has experienced two independent replacement events: once by Curculioniphilus symbiont in the lineage of Curculio and allied weevils of the tribe Curculionini, and once by Sodalis-allied symbiont in the lineage of grain weevils of the genus Sitophilus. The Curculioniphilus symbiont was detected from 27 of 36 Curculionini species examined, the symbiont phylogeny was congruent with the host weevil phylogeny, and the symbiont gene sequences exhibited AT-biased nucleotide compositions and accelerated molecular evolution. These results suggest that the Curculioniphilus symbiont was acquired by an ancestor of the tribe Curculionini, replaced the original symbiont Nardonella, and has co-speciated with the host weevils over evolutionary time, but has been occasionally lost in several host lineages. By contrast, the Sodalis-allied symbiont of Sitophilus weevils exhibited no host-symbiont co-speciation, no AT-biased nucleotide compositions and only moderately accelerated molecular evolution. These results suggest that the Sodalis-allied symbiont was certainly acquired by an ancestor of the Sitophilus weevils and replaced the original Nardonella symbiont, but the symbiotic association must have experienced occasional re-associations such as new acquisitions, horizontal transfers, replacements and/or losses. We detected Sodalis-allied facultative symbionts in populations of the Curculionini weevils, which might represent potential evolutionary sources of the Sodalis-allied primary symbionts. Comparison of these newcomer bacteriocyte-associated symbiont lineages highlights potential evolutionary trajectories and consequences of novel symbionts after independent replacements of the same ancient symbiont.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1378-1390
Number of pages13
JournalISME Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Curculionidae
  • Curculioniphilus
  • Nardonella
  • Sodalis-allied symbiont
  • host-symbiont co-evolution
  • symbiont replacement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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