Some aspects of intracellular symbiosis during embryo development of Mastotermes darwiniensis (Isoptera: Mastotermitidae)

L. Sacchi, C. A. Nalepa, E. Bigliardi, M. Lenz, C. Bandi, S. Corona, A. Grigolo, S. Lambiase, U. Laudani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


All examined species of cockroaches have been shown to harbour intracellular bacteria in specialized cells (bacteriocytes) of the fat body. In termites, bacteria in specialized cells have been observed only in Mastotermes darwiniensis (Isoptera: Mastotermitidae) All of these bacteria have been assigned to the same eubacterial lineage, with the bacteria of M. darwiniensis as the sister group to the cockroach bacteria. While the main steps of the life cycle of cockroach bacteria have been described, little is known about the bacteria of M. darwiniensis. More specifically, no data are available on their behaviour during the development of this termite Using both optical and electron microscopy methods, we examined embryos of M. darwiniensis at different developmental stages. Our results show that the integration of bacteria during the development of M. darwiniensis is implemented in the same way as in cockroaches. In particular, we observed the aggregation of a large amount of bacteria in a single mass in the yolk sac, with vitellophage-associated bacterial lysis. In cockroaches, a similar process has been described in detail for Periplaneta americana (Blattaria: Blattidae), where the bacterial mass is referred to as the transitory mycetome. The formation of a transitory mycetome could thus be regarded as an ancestral condition for cockroaches and termites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-316
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Cockroaches
  • Dictyoptera
  • Intracellular bacteria
  • Mycetome
  • Termites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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