Towards an integrated understanding of gut microbiota using insects as model systems

New review out discussing the use of insects as model systems for studying the gut microbiota.

Abstract:  Metazoans form symbioses with microorganisms that synthesize essential nutritional compounds and increase their efficiency to digest and absorb nutrients. Despite the growing awareness that microbes play key roles on metabolism, health and development of metazoans, symbiotic relationships within the gut are far from fully understood. Perhaps the most important obstacle to understanding these symbiotic relationships resides in the high diversity of bacterial communities living within the gut of most vertebrates. In this regard, insects, which generally harbor a lower microbial diversity within their gut, offer an interesting alternative to vertebrates and have recently emerged as potential model systems to study these interactions. In this review, we give a brief overview of the characteristics of the gut microbiota in insects in terms of low diversity but high variability at intra- and interspecific levels and we investigate some of the ecological and methodological factors that might explain such variability. We then emphasize how studies integrating a vast array of techniques and disciplines have the potential to provide a groundbreaking understanding of the biology of this micro eco-system.

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