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PLoS One. 2019 Jul 25;14(7):e0219696. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219696. eCollection 2019.

Microbial community modulates growth of symbiotic fungus required for stingless bee metamorphosis.

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School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil.
Department of Microbiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States of America.
Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa Meio Ambiente, Jaguariúna, SP, Brazil.
Department of Biology, FFCLRP, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil.
Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, United States of America.
Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States of America.


The Brazilian stingless bee Scaptotrigona depilis requires the brood cells-associated fungus Zygosaccharomyces sp. as steroid source for metamorphosis. Besides the presence of Zygosaccharomyces sp., other fungi inhabit S. depilis brood cells, but their biological functions are unknown. Here we show that Candida sp. and Monascus ruber, isolated from cerumen of S. depilis brood provisions, interact with Zygosaccharomyces sp. and modulate its growth. Candida sp. produces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that stimulate Zygosacchromyces sp. development. Monascus ruber inhibits Zygosacchromyces sp. growth by producing lovastatin, which blocks steroid biosynthesis. We also observed that in co-cultures M. ruber inhibits Candida sp. through the production of monascin. The modulation of Zygosaccharomyces sp. growth by brood cell-associated fungi suggests their involvement in S. depilis larval development. This tripartite fungal community opens new perspectives in the research of microbial interactions with bees.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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