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Microbiologyopen. 2013 Apr;2(2):276-83. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.73. Epub 2013 Feb 17.

Analysis of the bacterial communities associated with two ant-plant symbioses.

Author information

1
School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom. r.seipke@uea.ac.uk

Abstract

Insect fungiculture is practiced by ants, termites, beetles, and gall midges and it has been suggested to be widespread among plant-ants. Some of the insects engaged in fungiculture, including attine ants and bark beetles, are known to use symbiotic antibiotic-producing actinobacteria to protect themselves and their fungal cultivars against infection. In this study, we analyze the bacterial communities on the cuticles of the plant-ant genera Allomerus and Tetraponera using deep sequencing of 16S rRNA. Allomerus ants cultivate fungus as a building material to strengthen traps for prey, while Tetraponera ants cultivate fungus as a food source. We report that Allomerus and Tetraponera microbiomes contain >75% Proteobacteria and remarkably the bacterial phyla that dominate their cuticular microbiomes are very similar despite their geographic separation (South America and Africa, respectively). Notably, antibiotic-producing actinomycete bacteria represent a tiny fraction of the cuticular microbiomes of both Allomerus and Tetraponera spp. and instead they are dominated by γ-proteobacteria Erwinia and Serratia spp. Both these phyla are known to contain antibiotic-producing species which might therefore play a protective role in these ant-plant systems.

PMID:
23417898
PMCID:
PMC3633351
DOI:
10.1002/mbo3.73
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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