Investigating Bacterial Competition in the Leafcutter Ant Microbiome

Pawley-Benacerraf, George (2022) Investigating Bacterial Competition in the Leafcutter Ant Microbiome. Masters thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Actinobacteria are well known for their ability to produce antibiotics since most antimicrobials known today originated from bacteria in this phylum. The Streptomyces genus in particular, is responsible for most of the antibiotics used today. Therefore, one could assume that an abundance of antimicrobials have also been discovered from the actinomycete Pseudonocardia, yet it is the opposite. This leads us to believe that there are a plethora of untapped Pseudonocardia antimicrobials waiting to be identified and further studied.

Whole colonies of the leafcutter ant species Acromyrmex echinatior have been identified to contain one of two Pseudonocardia species on their cuticles. The P. echinatior or P. octospinosus, along with other bacteria in the ant microbiome, keep the ant colony alive by killing any pathogenic fungi and bacteria through the secretion of antimicrobials, thus protecting the co-evolved fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, which in turn produces gongylidia, the sole colony food source.

By isolating the Pseudonocardia and Streptomyces bacteria from the ant laterocervical plates and performing a series of bioassays, we can obtain these desired antimicrobials. Through amplicon sequencing we can get a better understanding of the ant microbiome that so many bacteria are competing over and yet Pseudonocardia have successfully colonised and play such a large role in keeping the ant colony alive alongside other actinomycetes such as Streptomyces.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2023 08:06
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2023 08:06


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