Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


ANTS Report Summary

Project ID: 323085
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Denmark

Mid-Term Report Summary - ANTS (Attine ANT SymbiomeS)

WP1. Understanding the life-time-committed symbiome of stored sperm in the bodies of long-lived queens.
Major progress has been realized in understanding the proteomes of ant organs mediating sperm competition (male accessory glands; female sperm storage organ glands), a manuscript that is in the final stages of preparation with Perth (Australia) collaborators. Very interesting progress as well in showing that standard insect immune genes are not expressed in female sperm storage organs. Good progress in experimental work showing sperm swimming speed is affected by the presence of own and alien accessory gland secretion. Samples for further proteomics of sperm competition glands in another genus are completed and a general paper on the ejaculate biology of leaf-cutting ants was published.

WP2. Understanding the supply and demand dynamics of digestive fungal enzymes and their deposition by the ants.
We published a paper documenting functional polyploidy in the fungal symbionts of the leaf-cutting ants also showing that the two genera rear different (related) clades of fungal symbionts explaining, as we show in another paper, that somatic incompatibility correlates differently with genetic distance in these two lineages. We further documented that hemicellulases are of little functional importance, underlining that fungal symbionts of leaf-cutting ants do not prioritize decomposition of recalcitrant plant cell wall material. More advanced proteomics have increased the number of fungal proteins transferred back to fungus-gardens via ant fecal fluid to almost 100. An RNAseq experiment comparing gene expression in somatic incompatibility zones is completed but remains to be analyzed.

WP3. Understanding the diversity and function of bacterial endosymbionts across ant genera and castes.
The first paper on the very species-poor gut microbiome of leaf-cutting ants has been published and a second paper comparing the gut microbiomes of 17 Panamanian fungus-growing ants belonging to eight genera is about to be submitted. We have progressed far in obtaining genome sequences of the main gut symbionts (Wolbachia, Mollicutes) and will also attempt to obtain a genome of the nitrogen fixing Rhizobiales symbiont that forms biofilms in the hindgut of these ants. Advanced microscopy studies are revealing the transmission modes of these gut symbionts from larval via pupal to adult stages (first paper being written up). Substantial genome sequencing of cuticular antibiotics-producing actinobacteria is ongoing with collaborators at the University of East Anglia (UK). Metagenome sequencing of fungal inoculation pellets of colony founding gueens is in progress.

WP4. Understanding the expression and regulation of genome-level conflict in attine ants.
A paper describing RNA-editing for the first time in ants has been published (with collaborators at BGI Shenzhen) and chromosome maps of a free-living and socially parasitic attine ant species have been almost completed. The comparative genome work on seven attine ant genomes and their fungal symbionts has been submitted, together with collaborators at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington and Panama) and BGI. Progress in comparative genome sequencing of socially parasitic species has already been realized, even though mostly planned for the second half of the contract period (collaborators at BGI and Rochester, US). The search for imprinted genes has had some setbacks, but is continuing. A project to clarify the role of the neuropeptide Tachykinin in mediating differential aggression among worker castes has been submitted.

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