The Life of an Insect Endosymbiont from the Cradle to the Grave

John P. McCutcheon, Bret M. Boyd, Colin Dale

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Host-beneficial endosymbioses, which are formed when a microorganism takes up residence inside another cell and provides a fitness advantage to the host, have had a dramatic influence on the evolution of life. These intimate relationships have yielded the mitochondrion and the plastid (chloroplast) — the ancient organelles that in part define eukaryotic life — along with many more recent associations involving a wide variety of hosts and microbial partners. These relationships are often envisioned as stable associations that appear cooperative and persist for extremely long periods of time. But recent evidence suggests that this stable state is often born from turbulent and conflicting origins, and that the apparent stability of many beneficial endosymbiotic relationships — although certainly real in many cases — is not an inevitable outcome of these associations. Here we review how stable endosymbioses form, how they are maintained, and how they sometimes break down and are reborn. We focus on relationships formed by insects and their resident microorganisms because these symbioses have been the focus of significant empirical work over the last two decades. We review these relationships over five life stages: origin, birth, middle age, old age, and death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R485-R495
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 3 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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