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Chemical warfare between fungus-growing ants and their pathogens

Sibyl F.D. Batey, Claudio Greco Orcid Logo, Matthew I. Hutchings, Barrie Wilkinson Orcid Logo

Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, Volume: 59, Pages: 172 - 181

Swansea University Author: Claudio Greco Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Fungus-growing attine ants are under constant threat from fungal pathogens such as the specialized mycoparasite Escovopsis, which uses combined physical and chemical attack strategies to prey on the fungal gardens of the ants. In defence, some species assemble protective microbiomes on their exoskel...

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Published in: Current Opinion in Chemical Biology
ISSN: 1367-5931
Published: Elsevier BV 2020
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa61517
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Abstract: Fungus-growing attine ants are under constant threat from fungal pathogens such as the specialized mycoparasite Escovopsis, which uses combined physical and chemical attack strategies to prey on the fungal gardens of the ants. In defence, some species assemble protective microbiomes on their exoskeletons that contain antimicrobial-producing Actinobacteria. Underlying this network of mutualistic and antagonistic interactions are an array of chemical signals. Escovopsis weberi produces the shearinine terpene-indole alkaloids, which affect ant behaviour, diketopiperazines to combat defensive bacteria, and other small molecules that inhibit the fungal cultivar. Pseudonocardia and Streptomyces mutualist bacteria produce depsipeptide and polyene macrolide antifungals active against Escovopsis spp. The ant nest metabolome is further complicated by competition between defensive bacteria, which produce antibacterials active against even closely related species.
Keywords: Fungus-growing ants; Mutualism; Antagonism; Specialized metabolites; Escovopsis; Pseudonocardia; Streptomyces; Antimicrobials
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Funders: This work was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) via Institute Strategic Program Project BBS/E/J/00PR9791 to the John Innes Centre, BBSRC responsive mode grants BB/S009000/1 (to BW) and BB/S00811X/1 (to MIH) and Natural Environment Research Council grants NE/J01074X/1 and NE/M015033/1 (to MIH) and NE/M014657/1 (to BW).
Start Page: 172
End Page: 181