Microbial Ecology

, Volume 75, Issue 4, pp 1035–1048 | Cite as

Accessing the Hidden Microbial Diversity of Aphids: an Illustration of How Culture-Dependent Methods Can Be Used to Decipher the Insect Microbiota

  • Alina S. GrigorescuEmail author
  • François RenozEmail author
  • Ahmed Sabri
  • Vincent Foray
  • Thierry Hance
  • Philippe Thonart
Invertebrate Microbiology


Microorganism communities that live inside insects can play critical roles in host development, nutrition, immunity, physiology, and behavior. Over the past decade, high-throughput sequencing reveals the extraordinary microbial diversity associated with various insect species and provides information independent of our ability to culture these microbes. However, their cultivation in the laboratory remains crucial for a deep understanding of their physiology and the roles they play in host insects. Aphids are insects that received specific attention because of their ability to form symbiotic associations with a wide range of endosymbionts that are considered as the core microbiome of these sap-feeding insects. But, if the functional diversity of obligate and facultative endosymbionts has been extensively studied in aphids, the diversity of gut symbionts and other associated microorganisms received limited consideration. Herein, we present a culture-dependent method that allowed us to successfully isolate microorganisms from several aphid species. The isolated microorganisms were assigned to 24 bacterial genera from the Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria phyla and three fungal genera from the Ascomycota and Basidiomycota phyla. In our study, we succeeded in isolating already described bacteria found associated to aphids (e.g., the facultative symbiont Serratia symbiotica), as well as microorganisms that have never been described in aphids before. By unraveling a microbial community that so far has been ignored, our study expands our current knowledge on the microbial diversity associated with aphids and illustrates how fast and simple culture-dependent approaches can be applied to insects in order to capture their diverse microbiota members.


Insect Aphid microbiota Culture-dependent method Molecular phylogeny Symbiotic bacteria 



We are very thankful to Prof. Jacques Mahillon from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, for kindly providing comments and suggestions and to Samir Fakhour for the critical revision of the manuscript.

Funding Information

This study was financially supported by Grant FRFC 6886819 from the Belgian Funds for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS). This paper is number BRC359 of the Biodiversity Research Centre.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

248_2017_1092_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Table S1 (DOCX 15 kb)
248_2017_1092_MOESM2_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Table S2 (DOCX 18 kb)
248_2017_1092_MOESM3_ESM.docx (64 kb)
Table S3 (DOCX 64 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Walloon Center of Industrial BiologyUniversité de LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.Earth and Life Institute, Biodiversity Research CenterUniversité Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.Artechno SAIsnesBelgium
  4. 4.Centre de Recherches de Biochimie Macromoléculaire (UMR-CNRS 5237)Montpellier Cedex 05France

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