Asaia, a versatile acetic acid bacterial symbiont, capable of cross-colonizing insects of phylogenetically distant genera and orders

Elena Crotti, Claudia Damiani, Massimo Pajoro, Elena Gonella, Aurora Rizzi, Irene Ricci, Ilaria Negri, Patrizia Scuppa, Paolo Rossi, Patrizia Ballarini, Noura Raddadi, Massimo Marzorati, Luciano Sacchi, Emanuela Clementi, Marco Genchi, Mauro Mandrioli, Claudio Bandi, Guido Favia, Alberto Alma, Daniele Daffonchio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Summary Bacterial symbionts of insects have been proposed for blocking transmission of vector-borne pathogens. However, in many vector models the ecology of symbionts and their capability of cross-colonizing different hosts, an important feature in the symbiotic control approach, is poorly known. Here we show that the acetic acid bacterium Asaia, previously found in the malaria mosquito vector Anopheles stephensi, is also present in, and capable of cross-colonizing other sugar-feeding insects of phylogenetically distant genera and orders. PCR, real-time PCR and in situ hybridization experiments showed Asaia in the body of the mosquito Aedes aegypti and the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus, vectors of human viruses and a grapevine phytoplasma respectively. Cross-colonization patterns of the body of Ae. aegypti, An. stephensi and S. titanus have been documented with Asaia strains isolated from An. stephensi or Ae. aegypti, and labelled with plasmid- or chromosome-encoded fluorescent proteins (Gfp and DsRed respectively). Fluorescence and confocal microscopy showed that Asaia, administered with the sugar meal, efficiently colonized guts, male and female reproductive systems and the salivary glands. The ability in cross-colonizing insects of phylogenetically distant orders indicated that Asaia adopts body invasion mechanisms independent from host-specific biological characteristics. This versatility is an important property for the development of symbiont-based control of different vector-borne diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3252-3264
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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