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Establishment and Maintenance of Gnotobiotic american Cockroaches (Periplaneta Americana)

Helen E. Dukes1, Josey E. Dyer1, Elizabeth A. Ottesen1


Gnotobiotic animals are a powerful tool for the study of controls on microbiome structure and function. Presented here is a protocol for the establishment and maintenance of gnotobiotic American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana). This approach includes built-in sterility checks for ongoing quality control. Gnotobiotic insects are defined here as cockroaches that still contain their vertically transmitted endosymbiont (Blattabacterium) but lack other microbes that normally reside on their surface and in their digestive tract. For this protocol, egg cases (oothecae) are removed from a (nonsterile) stock colony and surface sterilized. Once collected and sterilized, the oothecae are incubated at 30 °C for approximately 4−6 weeks on brain-heart infusion (BHI) agar until they hatch or are removed due to contamination. Hatched nymphs are transferred to an Erlenmeyer flask containing a BHI floor, sterile water, and sterile rat food. To ensure that the nymphs are not housing microbes that are unable to grow on BHI in the given conditions, an additional quality control measure uses restriction fragment-length polymorphism (RFLP) to test for nonendosymbiotic microbes. Gnotobiotic nymphs generated using this approach can be inoculated with simple or complex microbial communities and used as a tool in gut microbiome studies.

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