Research focus and expertise

09 Sep

Research focus and expertise

Elisa Dell'Aglio : meilleure communication au congrès international sur la symbiose

Elisa Dell'Aglio, post-doctorante au laboratoire, a remporté le prix de la meilleure communication lors du 10ème congrès international sur la symbiose (

A cette occasion, elle a été interviewé par la revue scientifique PeerJ (

Le laboratoire la félicite pour ce prix et pour la qualité de ses travaux !  


Elisa Dell'Aglio


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

I have developed various research interests. My first love was for dissecting the importance of vitamin metabolism for plant responses to stress (both biotic and abiotic). After a few years spent studying NADP and vitamin B6 biosynthesis in Arabidopsis, I moved to a completely different field: the investigation of the molecular mechanisms that govern the interaction between the cereal weevil Sitophilus oryzae and the its bacterial mutualistic endosymbiont Sodalis pierantonius. The weevil is one of the major threats for stored cereals, as it eats and lays eggs inside cereal grains, and the endosymbiont has been shown to be quite useful to improve insect protection against biotic and abiotic stress. This is especially due to the fact that bacteria produce a surplus of amino acids that are used by the host to reinforce their cuticle, the external “armor” that protects adult insects once out of the cereal grains. In exchange, the endosymbionts obtain energy and shelter from their host weevil, which is why this interaction is called a “mutualistic symbiosis”.

What first interested you in this field of research?

I had been fascinated by an article published by the group a few years ago (Vigneron et al., Current Biology 2014) about how the endosymbionts are eliminated by the weevil once the benefits of keeping them were satisfied (i.e. after the biosynthesis of the cuticle is completed). I was impressed by the amount of creative work that was necessary in order to discover the mechanistic aspects of non-model organisms. For example, the endosymbiont cannot be cultivated in vitro, both partners cannot be genetically modified and the development of the host is difficult to monitor since it takes place inside cereal grains from the egg stage until early adulthood. Despite that, with some tricks and creativity we were able to expand our knowledge on the subject.

You won the Best Student Presentation award at ISS 10/HOLOBIONT 3, can you explain the research you presented?

I presented a continuation of the 2014 work. In particular, we have discovered that prior to endosymbiont clearance by the host, the endosymbionts proliferate uncontrollably. Our data indicate that this proliferation escapes host control and is rather a parasitic-like phase, which does not serve the insect in normal rearing conditions and can even be detrimental for host survival if coupled with nutrient scarcity. It is important to stress that many bacterial endosymbionts derive from former bacterial pathogens that have been domesticated during evolution, and so is the case for S. pierantonius. However, our results, together with other independent discoveries, suggest that the domestication of the cereal weevil’s endosymbiont is still ongoing and therefore that we have captured a unique moment in the continuum between parasitism and mutualism. (

How will you continue to build on this research?

We are currently investigating the signalling pathways that might regulate host-endosymbiont communication at the cellular level. In particular, we are investigating the changes in gene expression, DNA methylation, and bacterial/eukaryotic small RNAs at various stages of the symbiosis and we are using advanced microscopy techniques to study bacterial/host molecular exchanges.

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