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Salivary proteins potentially derived from horizontal gene transfer are critical for salivary sheath formation and other feeding processes

Nature Communication biology

·       Hai-Jian Huang

·       Li-Li Li

·       Zhuang-Xin Ye

·       Jia-Bao Lu

·       Yi-Han Lou

·       Zhong-Yan Wei

·       Zong-Tao Sun

·       Jian-Ping Chen

·       Jun-Min Li & 

·       Chuan-Xi Zhang 

Communications Biology volume 7, Article number: 257 (2024) 


Herbivorous insects employ an array of salivary proteins to aid feeding. However, the mechanisms behind the recruitment and evolution of these genes to mediate plant-insect interactions remain poorly understood. Here, we report a potential horizontal gene transfer (HGT) event from bacteria to an ancestral bug of Eutrichophora. The acquired genes subsequently underwent duplications and evolved through co-option. We annotated them as horizontal-transferred, Eutrichophora-specific salivary protein (HESPs) according to their origin and function. In Riptortus pedestris (Coreoidea), all nine HESPs are secreted into plants during feeding. The RpHESP4 to RpHESP8 are recently duplicated and found to be indispensable for salivary sheath formation. Silencing of RpHESP4-8 increases the difficulty of R. pedestris in probing the soybean, and the treated insects display a decreased survivability. Although silencing the other RpHESPs does not affect the salivary sheath formation, negative effects are also observed. In Pyrrhocoris apterus (Pyrrhocoroidea), five out of six PaHESPs are secretory salivary proteins, with PaHESP3 being critical for insect survival. The PaHESP5, while important for insects, no longer functions as a salivary protein. Our results provide insight into the potential origin of insect saliva and shed light on the evolution of salivary proteins.

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