Syntrophic splitting of central carbon metabolism in host cells bearing functionally different symbiotic bacteria

Nana Y.D. Ankrah, Rebecca A. Wilkes, Freya Q. Zhang, Dantong Zhu, Tadeo Kaweesi, Ludmilla Aristilde*, Angela E. Douglas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Insects feeding on the nutrient-poor diet of xylem plant sap generally bear two microbial symbionts that are localized to different organs (bacteriomes) and provide complementary sets of essential amino acids (EAAs). Here, we investigate the metabolic basis for the apparent paradox that xylem-feeding insects are under intense selection for metabolic efficiency but incur the cost of maintaining two symbionts for functions mediated by one symbiont in other associations. Using stable isotope analysis of central carbon metabolism and metabolic modeling, we provide evidence that the bacteriomes of the spittlebug Clastoptera proteus display high rates of aerobic glycolysis, with syntrophic splitting of glucose oxidation. Specifically, our data suggest that one bacteriome (containing the bacterium Sulcia, which synthesizes seven EAAs) predominantly processes glucose glycolytically, producing pyruvate and lactate, and the exported pyruvate and lactate is assimilated by the second bacteriome (containing the bacterium Zinderia, which synthesizes three energetically costly EAAs) and channeled through the TCA cycle for energy generation by oxidative phosphorylation. We, furthermore, calculate that this metabolic arrangement supports the high ATP demand in Zinderia bacteriomes for Zinderia-mediated synthesis of energy-intensive EAAs. We predict that metabolite cross-feeding among host cells may be widespread in animal–microbe symbioses utilizing low-nutrient diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1982-1993
Number of pages12
JournalISME Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Microbiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Syntrophic splitting of central carbon metabolism in host cells bearing functionally different symbiotic bacteria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this