Dynamics of symbiont-mediated antibiotic production reveal efficient long-term protection for beewolf offspring.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Insects have evolved a wide range of mechanisms to defend themselves and their offspring against antagonists. One of these strategies involves the utilization of antimicrobial compounds provided by symbiotic bacteria to protect the host or its nutritional resources from pathogens and parasites. In the symbiosis of the solitary digger wasp, Philanthus triangulum (Hymenoptera, Crabronidae), the bacterial symbiont 'Candidatus Streptomyces philanthi' defends the developing larvae against pathogens by producing a mixture of at least nine antimicrobial substances on the cocoon surface. This antibiotic cocktail inhibits the growth of a broad range of detrimental fungi and bacteria, thereby significantly enhancing the offspring's survival probability. RESULTS: Here we show that the production of antimicrobial compounds by the beewolf symbionts is confined to the first two weeks after cocoon spinning, leading to a high concentration of piericidins and streptochlorin on the cocoon surface. Expression profiling of housekeeping, sporulation, and antibiotic biosynthesis genes indicates that antibiotic production coincides with morphological differentiation that enables the symbionts to survive the nutrient-limited conditions on the beewolf cocoon. The antibiotic substances remain stable on the cocoon surface for the entire duration of the beewolf's hibernation period, demonstrating that the compounds are resistant against environmental influences. CONCLUSIONS: The antibiotic production by the beewolf symbionts serves as a reliable protection for the wasp offspring against pathogenic microorganisms during the long and unpredictable developmental phase in the subterranean brood cells. Thus, the beewolf-Streptomyces symbiosis provides one of the rare examples of antibiotics serving as an efficient defense in the natural environment and may aid in devising new strategies for the utilization of antibiotic combination therapies in human medicine against increasingly resistant bacterial and fungal pathogens.
Project description:Many insects rely on symbiotic microbes for survival, growth, or reproduction. Over evolutionary timescales, the association with intracellular symbionts is stabilized by partner fidelity through strictly vertical symbiont transmission, resulting in congruent host and symbiont phylogenies. However, little is known about how symbioses with extracellular symbionts, representing the majority of insect-associated microorganisms, evolve and remain stable despite opportunities for horizontal exchange and de novo acquisition of symbionts from the environment. Here we demonstrate that host control over symbiont transmission (partner choice) reinforces partner fidelity between solitary wasps and antibiotic-producing bacteria and thereby stabilizes this Cretaceous-age defensive mutualism. Phylogenetic analyses show that three genera of beewolf wasps (Philanthus, Trachypus, and Philanthinus) cultivate a distinct clade of Streptomyces bacteria for protection against pathogenic fungi. The symbionts were acquired from a soil-dwelling ancestor at least 68 million years ago, and vertical transmission via the brood cell and the cocoon surface resulted in host-symbiont codiversification. However, the external mode of transmission also provides opportunities for horizontal transfer, and beewolf species have indeed exchanged symbiont strains, possibly through predation or nest reuse. Experimental infection with nonnative bacteria reveals that--despite successful colonization of the antennal gland reservoirs--transmission to the cocoon is selectively blocked. Thus, partner choice can play an important role even in predominantly vertically transmitted symbioses by stabilizing the cooperative association over evolutionary timescales.
Project description:Insects engage in symbiotic associations with a large diversity of beneficial microorganisms. While the majority of well-studied symbioses have a nutritional basis, several cases are known in which bacteria protect their host from pathogen infestation. Solitary wasps of the genera Philanthus and Trachypus (beewolves; Hymenoptera, Crabronidae) cultivate the actinomycete "Candidatus Streptomyces philanthi" in specialized antennal gland reservoirs. The symbionts are transferred to the larval cocoon, where they provide protection against pathogenic fungi by producing at least nine different antibiotics. Here we investigated the closest relatives of Philanthus and Trachypus, the rare genus Philanthinus, for the presence of antennal gland reservoirs and symbiotic streptomycetes. Molecular analyses identified "Ca. Streptomyces philanthi" in reservoirs of Philanthinus quattuordecimpunctatus. Phylogenies based on the 16S rRNA gene suggest that P. quattuordecimpunctatus may have acquired "Ca. Streptomyces philanthi" by horizontal transfer from other beewolf species. In histological sections and three-dimensional reconstructions, the antennal gland reservoirs were found to occupy six antennal segments (as opposed to only five in Philanthus and Trachypus) and to be structurally less complex than those of the evolutionarily more derived genera of beewolves. The presence of "Ca. Streptomyces philanthi" in antennal glands of Philanthinus indicates that the symbiosis between beewolves and Streptomyces bacteria is much older than previously thought. It probably evolved along the branch leading to the monophyletic tribe Philanthini, as it seems to be confined to the genera Philanthus, Trachypus, and Philanthinus, which together comprise 172 described species of solitary wasps.
Project description:The increasing resistance of human pathogens severely limits the efficacy of antibiotics in medicine, yet many animals, including solitary beewolf wasps, successfully engage in defensive alliances with antibiotic-producing bacteria for millions of years. Here, we report on the in situ production of 49 derivatives belonging to three antibiotic compound classes (45 piericidin derivatives, 3 streptochlorin derivatives, and nigericin) by the symbionts of 25 beewolf host species and subspecies, spanning 68 million years of evolution. Despite a high degree of qualitative stability in the antibiotic mixture, we found consistent quantitative differences between species and across geographic localities, presumably reflecting adaptations to combat local pathogen communities. Antimicrobial bioassays with the three main components and in silico predictions based on the structure and specificity in polyketide synthase domains of the piericidin biosynthesis gene cluster yield insights into the mechanistic basis and ecoevolutionary implications of producing a complex mixture of antimicrobial compounds in a natural setting.
Project description:BACKGROUND: 'Candidatus Streptomyces philanthi' is a monophyletic clade of formerly uncultured bacterial symbionts in solitary digger wasps of the genera Philanthus, Philanthinus and Trachypus (Hymenoptera, Crabronidae). These bacteria grow in female-specific antennal reservoirs and - after transmission to the cocoon - produce antibiotics protecting the host larvae from fungal infection. However, the symbionts' refractoriness to cultivation has thus far hampered detailed in vitro studies on their physiology and on the evolutionary changes in metabolic versatility in response to the host environment. RESULTS: Here we isolated in axenic culture 22 'Streptomyces philanthi' biovars from different host species. Sequencing of gyrB revealed no heterogeneity among isolates within host individuals, suggesting low levels of (micro)diversity or even clonality of the symbionts in individual beewolf antennae. Surprisingly, however, isolates from different host species differed strongly in their physiology. All biovars from the Eurasian/African Philanthus and the South American Trachypus host species had high nutritional demands and were susceptible to most antibiotics tested, suggesting a tight association with the hosts. By contrast, biovars isolated from the genus Philanthinus and the monophyletic North American Philanthus clade were metabolically versatile and showed broad antibiotic resistance. Concordantly, recent horizontal symbiont transfer events - reflected in different symbiont strains infecting the same host species - have been described only among North American Philanthus species, altogether indicative of facultative symbionts potentially capable of a free-living lifestyle. Phylogenetic analyses reveal a strong correlation between symbiont metabolic versatility and host phylogeny, suggesting that the host environment differentially affects the symbionts' evolutionary fate. Although opportunistic bacteria were occasionally isolated from the antennae of different host species, only filamentous Actinobacteria (genera Streptomyces, Amycolatopsis and Nocardia) could replace 'S. philanthi' in the antennal gland reservoirs. CONCLUSION: Our results indicate that closely related bacteria from a monophyletic clade of symbionts can experience very different evolutionary trajectories in response to the symbiotic lifestyle, which is reflected in different degrees of metabolic versatility and host-dependency. We propose that the host-provided environment could be an important factor in shaping the degenerative metabolic evolution in the symbionts and deciding whether they evolve into obligate symbionts or remain facultative and capable of a host-independent lifestyle.
Project description:Leaf-cutting ants cultivate the fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, which serves as a major food source. This symbiosis is threatened by microbial pathogens that can severely infect L. gongylophorus. Microbial symbionts of leaf-cutting ants, mainly Pseudonocardia and Streptomyces, support the ants in defending their fungus gardens against infections by supplying antimicrobial and antifungal compounds. The ecological role of microorganisms in the nests of leaf-cutting ants can only be addressed in detail if their secondary metabolites are known. Here, we use an approach for the rapid identification of established bioactive compounds from microorganisms in ecological contexts by combining phylogenetic data, database searches, and liquid chromatography electrospray ionisation high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-HR-MS) screening. Antimycins A(1)-A(4), valinomycins, and actinomycins were identified in this manner from Streptomyces symbionts of leaf-cutting ants. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) imaging revealed the distribution of valinomycin directly on the integument of Acromyrmex echinatior workers. Valinomycins and actinomycins were also directly identified in samples from the waste of A. echinatior and A. niger leaf-cutting ants, suggesting that the compounds exert their antimicrobial and antifungal potential in the nests of leaf-cutting ants. Strong synergistic effects of the secondary meta-bolites produced by ant-associated Streptomyces were observed in the agar diffusion assay against Escovopsis weberi. Actinomycins strongly inhibit soil bacteria as well as other Streptomyces and Pseudonocardia symbionts. The antifungal antimycins are not only active against pathogenic fungi but also the garden fungus L. gongylophorus itself. In conclusion, secondary metabolites of microbial symbionts of leaf-cutting ants contribute to shaping the microbial communities within the nests of leaf-cutting ants.
Project description:Identifying new sources for small molecule discovery is necessary to help mitigate the continuous emergence of antibiotic-resistance in pathogenic microbes. Recent studies indicate that one potentially rich source of novel natural products is Actinobacterial symbionts associated with social and solitary Hymenoptera. Here we test this possibility by examining two species of solitary mud dauber wasps, Sceliphron caementarium and Chalybion californicum. We performed enrichment isolations from 33 wasps and obtained more than 200 isolates of Streptomyces Actinobacteria. Chemical analyses of 15 of these isolates identified 11 distinct and structurally diverse secondary metabolites, including a novel polyunsaturated and polyoxygenated macrocyclic lactam, which we name sceliphrolactam. By pairing the 15 Streptomyces strains against a collection of fungi and bacteria, we document their antifungal and antibacterial activity. The prevalence and anti-microbial properties of Actinobacteria associated with these two solitary wasp species suggest the potential role of these Streptomyces as antibiotic-producing symbionts, potentially helping defend their wasp hosts from pathogenic microbes. Finding phylogenetically diverse and chemically prolific Actinobacteria from solitary wasps suggests that insect-associated Actinobacteria can provide a valuable source of novel natural products of pharmaceutical interest.
Project description:Detrimental microbes caused the evolution of a great diversity of antimicrobial defenses in plants and animals. Insects developing underground seem particularly threatened. Here we show that the eggs of a solitary digger wasp, the European beewolf Philanthus triangulum, emit large amounts of gaseous nitric oxide (NO?) to protect themselves and their provisions, paralyzed honeybees, against mold fungi. We provide evidence that a NO-synthase (NOS) is involved in the generation of the extraordinary concentrations of nitrogen radicals in brood cells (~1500 ppm NO? and its oxidation product NO2?). Sequencing of the beewolf NOS gene revealed no conspicuous differences to related species. However, due to alternative splicing, the NOS-mRNA in beewolf eggs lacks an exon near the regulatory domain. This preventive external application of high doses of NO? by wasp eggs represents an evolutionary key innovation that adds a remarkable novel facet to the array of functions of the important biological effector NO?.
Project description:Effective antimicrobial strategies are essential adaptations of insects to protect themselves, their offspring, and their foods from microbial pathogens and decomposers. Larvae of the emerald cockroach wasp, Ampulex compressa, sanitize their cockroach hosts, Periplaneta americana, with a cocktail of nine antimicrobials comprising mainly (R)-(-)-mellein and micromolide. The blend of these antimicrobials has broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. Here we explore the spatio-temporal pattern of deployment of antimicrobials during the development from egg to adult as well as their physico-chemical properties to assess how these aspects may contribute to the success of the antimicrobial strategy. Using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) we show that larvae start sanitizing their food as soon as they have entered their host to feed on its tissue. Subsequently, they impregnate the cockroach carcass with antimicrobials to create a hygienic substrate for cocoon spinning inside the host. Finally, the antimicrobials are incorporated into the cocoon. The antimicrobial profiles on cockroach and wasp cocoon differed markedly. While micromolide persisted on the cockroaches until emergence of the wasps, solid-phase microextraction sampling and GC/MS analysis revealed that (R)-(-)-mellein vaporized from the cockroaches and accumulated in the enclosed nest. In microbial challenge assays (R)-(-)-mellein in the headspace of parasitized cockroaches inhibited growth of entomopathogenic and opportunistic microbes (Serratia marcescens, Aspergillus sydowii, Metarhizium brunneum). We conclude that, in addition to food sanitation, A. compressa larvae enclose themselves in two defensive walls by impregnating the cocoon and the cockroach cuticle with antimicrobials. On top of that, they use vaporous (R)-(-)-mellein to sanitize the nest by fumigation. This multifaceted antimicrobial defense strategy involving the spatially and temporally coordinated deployment of several antimicrobials in solution and vapor form has apparently evolved to reliably protect the larvae themselves and their food against a broad range of antagonistic microbes.
Project description:One of the greatest challenges in microbial ecology remains to link the metabolic activity of individual cells to their taxonomic identity and localization within environmental samples. Here we combined mass-spectrometric imaging (MSI) through (matrix-assisted) laser desorption ionization time-of-flight MSI ([MA]LDI-TOF/MSI) with fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to monitor antibiotic production in the defensive symbiosis between beewolf wasps and 'Streptomyces philanthi' bacteria. Our results reveal similar distributions of the different symbiont-produced antibiotics across the surface of beewolf cocoons, which colocalize with the producing cell populations. Whereas FISH achieves single-cell resolution, MSI is currently limited to a step size of 20-50??m in the combined approach because of the destructive effects of high laser intensities that are associated with tighter laser beam focus at higher lateral resolution. However, on the basis of the applicability of (MA)LDI-MSI to a broad range of small molecules, its combination with FISH provides a powerful tool for studying microbial interactions in situ, and further modifications of this technique could allow for linking metabolic profiling to gene expression.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Thepolysphinctine wasp, Acrodactylaquadrisculpta,is a koinobiont ecto-parasitoid of spiders and is narrowly associated with the biology of its spider hosts. The larva, attached to the dorsal side of the abdomen, develops while the spider continues foraging. Shortly before pupation, the parasitoid larva manipulates the web-building activity of the host in order to construct a safe shelter against natural elements and predators during parasitoid pupation. RESULTS:A. quadrisculpta was associated exclusively with the orb web weaving spiders Tetragnatha montana, with a parasitism incidence of 19%. The manipulated spider constructed a unique cocoon web that provided strong mechanical support for the parasitoid's pupal cocoon. The cocoon web consisted of one highly reinforced main thread, tensioned in 60% of cases by a reinforced side thread. The wasp cocoon, square in cross-section, was fastened along its length to the main cocoon thread. CONCLUSIONS:The wasp A. quadrisculpta was exclusively associated with an orb-weaving spider T. montana in the family Tetragnathidae. The alteration of the web architecture of T. montana induced by the larva A. quadrisculpta was unique and species specific.