Insect microbial symbionts as a novel source for biotechnology

  • Sen Xie
  • Yahua Lan
  • Chao Sun
  • Yongqi ShaoEmail author


Insecta is the most diverse and largest class of animals on Earth, appearing together with the emergence of the first terrestrial ecosystem. Owing to this great diversity and long-term coexistence, an amazing variety of symbiotic microorganisms have adapted specifically to insects as hosts. Insect symbionts not only participate in many relationships with the hosts but also represent a novel resource for biotechnological applications. The exploitation of mutualistic symbiosis represents a promising area to search for bioactive compounds and new enzymes for potential clinical, industrial or environmental applications. Moreover, the manipulation of parasitic symbiosis has particular potential to solve practical problems for the control of agricultural pests and disease vectors. Although the study of microbial symbionts has been impaired by the unculturability of most symbionts, the rapidly growing catalogue of microbial genomes and the application of modern genetic techniques provide an alternative approach to using these microbes. This minireview presents examples of microbial symbionts isolated from insects for emerging biotechnological use and illuminates new ways for discovering microorganisms of applied value from a particularly promising source.


Bioactive compounds Insect Metabolites Microbiome Symbionts 



We sincerely thank Dr. Ian Maddox for the invitation and encouragement to submit this paper. We also thank the editor and four anonymous reviewers for insightful comments on the manuscript, and we gratefully acknowledge the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31601906), the Modern Agricultural Industry Technology System (Grant No. CARS-18-ZJ0302), Zhejiang province analysis and testing science and technology project (Grant No. 2018C37060) and Max Planck Society for their financial support in our work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sericulture and Apiculture, College of Animal SciencesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Analysis Center of Agrobiology and Environmental SciencesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Laboratory for Molecular Animal NutritionMinistry of EducationBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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