The prevailing view that insects lack endogenous enzymes for plant cell wall (PCW) digestion had led to the hypothesis that PCW digestion evolved independently in different insect taxa through the establishment of symbiotic relationships with microorganisms. However, recent studies reporting endogenous PCW-degrading genes and enzymes for several insects, including phylogenetically basal insects and closely related arthropod groups, challenge this hypothesis. Here, we summarize the molecular and biochemical evidence on the mechanisms of PCW digestion in insects to analyze its evolutionary pathways. The evidence reveals that the symbiotic-independent mechanism may be the ancestral mechanism for PCW digestion. We discuss the implications of this alternative hypothesis in the evolution of plant-insect interactions and suggest that changes in the composition of lignocellulolytic complexes were involved in the evolution of feeding habits and diet specializations in insects, playing important roles in the evolution of plant-insect interactions and in the diversification of insects.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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