Nosema locustae is a microsporidian parasite of grasshopper pests that is used as a biological control agent, and is one of the emerging model systems for microsporidia. Due largely to its diplokaryotic nuclei, N. locustae has been classified in the genus Nosema, a large genus with members that infect a wide variety of insects. However, some molecular studies have cast doubt on the validity of certain Nosema species, and on the taxonomic position of N. locustae. To clarify the affinities of this important insect parasite we sequenced part of the rRNA operon of N. locustae and conducted a phylogenetic analysis using the complete small subunit rRNA gene. Nosema locustae is only distantly related to the nominotypic N. bombycis, and is instead closely related to Antonospora scoticae, a recently described parasite of bees. We examined the ultrastructure of mature N. locustae spores, and found the spore wall to differ from true Nosema species in having a multi-layered exospore resembling that of Antonospora (one of the distinguishing features of that genus). Based on both molecular and morphological evidence, therefore, we propose transferring N. locustae to the genus Antonospora, as Antonospora locustae n. comb.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2