A bacterial filter protects and structures the gut microbiome of an insect

Michele Caroline Lanan, Pedro Augusto Pos Rodrigues, Al Agellon, Patricia Jansma, Diana Esther Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Associations with symbionts within the gut lumen of hosts are particularly prone to disruption due to the constant influx of ingested food and non-symbiotic microbes, yet we know little about how partner fidelity is maintained. Here we describe for the first time the existence of a gut morphological filter capable of protecting an animal gut microbiome from disruption. The proventriculus, a valve located between the crop and midgut of insects, functions as a micro-pore filter in the Sonoran Desert turtle ant (Cephalotes rohweri), blocking the entry of bacteria and particles ≥0.2 μm into the midgut and hindgut while allowing passage of dissolved nutrients. Initial establishment of symbiotic gut bacteria occurs within the first few hours after pupation via oral-rectal trophallaxis, before the proventricular filter develops. Cephalotes ants are remarkable for having maintained a consistent core gut microbiome over evolutionary time and this partner fidelity is likely enabled by the proventricular filtering mechanism. In addition, the structure and function of the cephalotine proventriculus offers a new perspective on organismal resistance to pathogenic microbes, structuring of gut microbial communities, and development and maintenance of host-microbe fidelity both during the animal life cycle and over evolutionary time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1866-1876
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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