ISME J 5(8) , 1323-31 (Aug 2011)
Sirex noctilio is an invasive wood-feeding wasp that threatens the world’s commercial and natural pine forests. Successful tree colonization by this insect is contingent on the decline of host defenses and the ability to utilize the woody substrate as a source of energy. We explored its potential association with bacterial symbionts that may assist in nutrient acquisition via plant biomass deconstruction using growth assays, culture-dependent and -independent analysis of bacterial frequency of association and whole-genome analysis. We identified Streptomyces and gamma-Proteobacteria that were each associated with 94% and 88% of wasps, respectively. Streptomyces isolates grew on all three cellulose substrates tested and across a range of pH 5.6 to 9. On the basis of whole-genome sequencing, three Streptomyces isolates have some of the highest proportions of genes predicted to encode for carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZyme) of sequenced Actinobacteria. gamma-Proteobacteria isolates grew on a cellulose derivative and a structurally diverse substrate, ammonia fiber explosion-treated corn stover, but not on microcrystalline cellulose. Analysis of the genome of a Pantoea isolate detected genes putatively encoding for CAZymes, the majority predicted to be active on hemicellulose and more simple sugars. We propose that a consortium of microorganisms, including the described bacteria and the fungal symbiont Amylostereum areolatum, has complementary functions for degrading woody substrates and that such degradation may assist in nutrient acquisition by S. noctilio, thus contributing to its ability to be established in forested habitats worldwide.