The protective role of endogenous bacterial communities in chironomid egg masses and larvae

Yigal Senderovich, Malka Halpern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insects of the family Chironomidae, also known as chironomids, are distributed worldwide in a variety of water habitats. These insects display a wide range of tolerance toward metals and organic pollutions. Bacterial species known for their ability to degrade toxicants were identified from chironomid egg masses, leading to the hypothesis that bacteria may contribute to the survival of chironomids in polluted environments. To gain a better understanding of the bacterial communities that inhabit chironomids, the endogenous bacteria of egg masses and larvae were studied by 454-pyrosequencing. The microbial community of the egg masses was distinct from that of the larval stage, most likely due to the presence of one dominant bacterial Firmicutes taxon, which consisted of 28% of the total sequence reads from the larvae. This taxon may be an insect symbiont. The bacterial communities of both the egg masses and the larvae were found to include operational taxonomic units, which were closely related to species known as toxicant degraders. Furthermore, various bacterial species with the ability to detoxify metals were isolated from egg masses and larvae. Koch-like postulates were applied to demonstrate that chironomid endogenous bacterial species protect the insect from toxic heavy metals. We conclude that chironomids, which are considered pollution tolerant, are inhabited by stable endogenous bacterial communities that have a role in protecting their hosts from toxicants. This phenomenon, in which bacteria enable the continued existence of their host in hostile environments, may not be restricted only to chironomids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2147-2158
Number of pages12
JournalISME Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partially supported by a grant from the US Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF grant no. ILB1-7045-HA). We thank Sivan Laviad and Tamar Shakéd for their technical assistance.


  • Chironomid
  • Koch postulates
  • detoxification
  • egg mass
  • larvae
  • metal
  • pollutant
  • pyrosequensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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