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Diverse insects are obligatorily associated with microbial symbionts, wherein the host often develops special symbiotic organs and vertically transmits the symbiont to the next generation. What molecular factors underpin the host-symbiont relationship is of great interest but poorly understood. Here we report a novel protein preferentially produced in a female-specific symbiotic organ of the stinkbug Plautia stali, whose posterior midgut develops numerous crypts to host a Pantoea-allied bacterial mutualist. In adult females, several posteriormost crypts are conspicuously enlarged, presumably specialized for vertical symbiont transmission. We detected conspicuous protein bands specific to the female's swollen crypts by gel electrophoresis, and identified them as representing a novel mucin-like glycoprotein. Histological inspections confirmed that the mucin protein is localized to the female's swollen crypts, coexisting with a substantial population of the symbiotic bacteria, and excreted from the swollen crypts to the midgut main tract together with the symbiotic bacteria. Using RNA interference, we successfully suppressed production of the mucin protein in adult females of P. stali. However, although the mucin protein was depleted, the symbiont population persisted in the swollen crypts, and vertical symbiont transmission to the next generation occurred. Possible biological roles and evolutionary trajectory of the symbiosis-related mucin protein are discussed. © 2022. The Author(s).


Minoru Moriyama, Toshinari Hayashi, Takema Fukatsu. A mucin protein predominantly expressed in the female-specific symbiotic organ of the stinkbug Plautia stali. Scientific reports. 2022 May 11;12(1):7782

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PMID: 35546182

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