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Phylogenetic analysis of mutualistic filamentous bacteria associated with fungus-growing ants

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The attine ant–microbe system is a quadripartite symbiosis, involving a complex set of mutualistic and parasitic associations. The symbiosis includes the fungus-growing ants (tribe Attini), the basidiomycetous fungi the ants cultivate for food, specialized microfungal parasites (in the genus Escovopsis) of the cultivar, and ant-associated mu tualistic filamentous bacteria that secrete antibiotics specifically targeted to suppress the growth of Escovopsis. In this study, we conduct the first phylogenetic analysis of the filamentous mutualistic bacteria (actinomycetes) associated with fungus-growing ants. The filamentous bacteria present on 3 genera of fungus-growing ants (Acromyrmex, Trachy myrmex, and Apterostigma) were isolated from 126 colonies. The isolated actinomycetes were grouped into 3 distinct morphological types. Each morphological type was specific to the ant genus from which it was isolated, suggesting some degree of host specificity. The phylogenetic position of the 3 morphotypes was estimated using 16S rDNA for representative strains. The 8 isolates of actinomycetes sequenced are in the family Pseudonocardiaceae (Actino mycetales) and belong to the genus Pseudonocardia. Transmission electron microscopy examination of the actino mycete associated with the cuticle of Acromyrmex sp. revealed bacterial cells with an outer electron-dense membrane, consistent with actinomycetes in the genus Pseudonocardia. Ant-associated Pseudonocardia isolates did not form a monophyletic group, suggesting multiple acquisitions of actinomycetes by fungus-growing ants over their evolutionary history.Key words: actinomycetes, Pseudonocardia, phylogeny, mutualism, attine ants.

Le système fourmi attin–emicrobe est une symbiose quadripartite mettant en jeu un ensemble complexe d'associations mutualistes et parasitaires. Les symbioses comprennent les fourmis cultivant des champignons (tribu Attini), le champignon basidiomycète cultivé par les fourmis pour la nourriture, des parasites microfongiques spécialisés (du genre Escovopsis) des cultivars et des bactéries filamenteuses mutualistes associées aux fourmis et sécrétant des antibiotiques qui suppriment spécifiquement la croissance de Escovopsis. Dans cette étude, nous avons accompli la première analyse phylogénétique des bactéries filamenteuses mutualistes (actinomycètes) associées aux fourmis cultivant des champignons. Les bactéries filamenteuses retrouvées dans trois genres de fourmis cultivant des champignons, Acro myrmex, Trachymyrmex et Apterostigma, ont été isolées de 126 colonies. Les actinomycètes isolés furent regroupés en trois types morphologiques distincts. Chaque type morphologique était spécifique au genre de fourmis duquel il fut isolé, indiquant un certain degré de spécificité à l'hôte. La position phylogénétique des trois morphotypes fut estimée à l'aide de l'ADNr 16S de souches représentatives. Les isolats d'actinomycètes séquencés se retrouvent dans la famille des Pseudonocardiaceae (Actinomycetales) et appartiennent au genre Pseudonocardia. Un examen par microscopie électronique à transmission des actinomycètes associés à la cuticule de Acromyrmex sp. a révélé la présence de cellules bactériennes dotées d'une membrane externe dense, en conformité avec les actinomycètes du genre Pseudonocardia. Les isolats de Pseudonocardia associées aux fourmis n'ont pas formé un groupe monophylétique, ce qui suggère de multiples acquisitions d'actinomycètes par les fourmis cultivant des champignons au cours de leur évolution.Mots clés : actinomycètes, Pseudonocardia, phylogénie, mutualisme, fourmis attines.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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  • Published since 1954, this monthly journal contains new research in the field of microbiology including applied microbiology and biotechnology; microbial structure and function; fungi and other eucaryotic protists; infection and immunity; microbial ecology; physiology, metabolism and enzymology; and virology, genetics, and molecular biology. It also publishes review articles and notes on an occasional basis, contributed by recognized scientists worldwide.
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