Multiple symbiosis in the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae): Details of transovarial transmission of Cardinium sp. and yeast-like endosymbionts

L. Sacchi*, M. Genchi, E. Clementi, E. Bigliardi, A. M. Avanzati, M. Pajoro, I. Negri, M. Marzorati, E. Gonella, A. Alma, Daniele Daffonchio, C. Bandi

*Corresponding author for this work

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79 Scopus citations


Scaphoideus titanus is the insect vector of flavescence dorée (FD), a yellow disease of grapevines. Observations on adult females and nymphs of S. titanus showed that this insect is associated with a complex microbial community. Ultrastructural analysis showed that the fat body, salivary glands and ovary of the insect harbour microorganisms showing the brush-like structure typically observed in the genus Cardinium. In particular, it has been shown that these symbiotic bacteria are present both in the follicular cells and in the eggs. In addition, cells resembling bacteriocytes, harbouring numerous Cardinium symbionts in the cytoplasm, were observed in the apical portion of the ovary in adult females. These cells are likely responsible for bacterial transmission to the ovary. Optical microscopy showed that the fat body harbours an enormous population of yeast-like symbionts (YLSs). Ultrastructural observations showed that these symbionts are enclosed within specialized cells of the fat body and are also present in the ovary, where they are found in both the follicular cells and the eggs. There is thus evidence that both Cardinium and the YLSs are transovarially transmitted to the offspring. To our knowledge, S. titanus is the sole insect known to transmit two different kinds of symbionts to the eggs, a prokaryote and an eukaryote. Gene sequence analysis and in situ hybridization led to the identification of YLSs as members of the class Sordariomycetes (=Pyrenomycetes). Finally, ultrastructural observation of the midgut content revealed the presence, in both adult females and nymphs, of a complex microbial community, which include a phytoplasma-like microorganism, likely the agent of FD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-242
Number of pages12
JournalTissue and Cell
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Bacteroidetes
  • Sordariomycets
  • Symbiosis
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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