The establishment of intracellular symbiosis in an ancestor of cockroaches and termites

C. Bandi, M. Sironi, G. Damiani, L. Magrassi, C. A. Nalepa, U. Laudant, L. Sacchi

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All cockroaches examined so far have been found to harbour a bacterial endosymbiont in specialized cells of the fat body, whereas Mastotermes darwiniensis is the only termite currently known to harbour an intracellular symbiont. The localization and mode of transmission of these bacteria are surprisingly similar, but so far no data have been published on their phylogenetic relationships. To address this issue, molecular sequence data were obtained from the genes encoding the small subunit ribosomal RNA of the M. darwiniensis endosymbiont, and compared with those obtained from endosymbionts of seven species of cockroaches. Molecular phylogenetic analysis unambiguously placed all these bacteria among the flavobacteria-bacteroides, indicating that the endosymbiont of M. darwiniensis is the sister group to the cockroach endosymbionts examined. Additionally, nucleotide divergence between the endosymbionts appears to be congruent with the palaeontological data on the hosts's evolution. These results support previous claims that the original infection occurred in an ancestor common to cockroaches and termites. A loss of endosymbionts should subsequently have occurred in all termite lineages, except that which gave rise to M. darwiniensis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-299
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1356
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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