The mycobiota of the sand fly Phlebotomus perniciosus: Involvement of yeast symbionts in uric acid metabolism

Elena Martin, Ilaria Varotto Boccazzi, Leone De Marco, Gioia Bongiorno, Matteo Montagna, Luciano Sacchi, Priscilla Mensah, Irene Ricci, Luigi Gradoni, Claudio Bandi, Sara Epis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The knowledge of the fungal mycobiota of arthropods, including the vectors of human and animal diseases, is still limited. Here, the mycobiota associated with the sand fly Phlebotomus perniciosus, the main vector of leishmaniasis in the western Mediterranean area, by a culture-dependent approach (microbiological analyses and sequencing of the 26S rRNA gene), internal transcribed spacer (ITS) rRNA amplicon-based next-generation sequencing, fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH), and genome sequencing of the dominant yeast species was investigated. The dominant species was Meyerozyma guilliermondii, known for its biotechnological applications. The focus was on this yeast and its prevalence in adults, pupae and larvae of reared sand flies (overall prevalence: 57.5%) and of field-collected individuals (overall prevalence: 9%) was investigated. Using whole-mount FISH and microscopic examination, it was further showed that M. guilliermondii colonizes the midgut of females, males and larvae and the distal part of Malpighian tubules of female sand flies, suggesting a possible role in urate degradation. Finally, the sequencing and analysis of the genome of M. guilliermondii allowed predicting the complete uric acid degradation pathway, suggesting that the yeast could contribute to the removal of the excess of nitrogenous wastes after the blood meal of the insect host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1064-1077
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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