Uric acid stored in the fat body of cockroaches is a nitrogen reservoir mobilized in times of scarcity. The discovery of urease in Blattabacterium cuenoti, the primary endosymbiont of cockroaches, suggests that the endosymbiont may participate in cockroach nitrogen economy. However, bacterial urease may only be one piece in the entire nitrogen recycling process from insect uric acid. Thus, in addition to the uricolytic pathway to urea, there must be glutamine synthetase assimilating the released ammonia by the urease reaction to enable the stored nitrogen to be metabolically usable. None of the Blattabacterium genomes sequenced to date possess genes encoding for those enzymes. To test the host's contribution to the process, we have sequenced and analysed Blattella germanica transcriptomes from the fat body. We identified transcripts corresponding to all genes necessary for the synthesis of uric acid and its catabolism to urea, as well as for the synthesis of glutamine, asparagine, proline and glycine, i.e. the amino acids required by the endosymbiont. We also explored the changes in gene expression with different dietary protein levels. It appears that the ability to use uric acid as a nitrogen reservoir emerged in cockroaches after its age-old symbiotic association with bacteria.
- Received May 21, 2014.
- Accepted July 2, 2014.
- © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.