Chemical warfare between fungus-growing ants and their pathogens

Sibyl Batey, Claudio Greco, Matthew I. Hutchings, Barrie Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-181
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
Early online date17 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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