Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Faithful allies since the Cretaceous

15.04.2014

Symbiosis between beewolves and their protective bacteria originated millions of years ago. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and the University of Regensburg, in collaboration with researchers in the USA, now discovered that certain wasps tightly control mother-to-offspring transmission of their bacterial symbionts. This stabilizes the symbiotic alliance and contributed to its persistence over the past 68-110 million years.

Like humans, many animals depend on beneficial microbes for survival. Although such symbioses can persist for millions of years, the factors maintaining their long-term stability remain, in most cases, unknown.


A male beewolf (Philanthus pulcherrimus) on a perch in its territory. Three genera of these digger wasps cultivate antibiotic-producing Streptomyces bacteria.

Martin Kaltenpoth / Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology


Symbiotic Streptomyces bacteria from the antennae of a female beewolf (Philanthus triangulum) (in false colors).

Martin Kaltenpoth / Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and the University of Regensburg, in collaboration with researchers in the USA, now discovered that certain wasps tightly control mother-to-offspring transmission of their bacterial symbionts. This stabilizes the symbiotic alliance and contributed to its persistence over the past 68-110 million years. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, April 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1400457111)

Symbiotic associations are ubiquitous in nature and play a pivotal role for the ecology and evolution of most organisms on earth. This is exemplified by mykorrhizal fungi that are important nutritional partners for up to 90% of all land plants. Many symbioses have persisted for hundreds of millions of years, with a certain host species consistently associating with a specific symbiont. But how do these alliances persist?

After all, many symbionts spend part of their life cycle outside of the host’s body. In order to prevent the acquisition of ever-present environmental microbes, the host must discriminate between friends and foes.

A particularly fascinating defensive alliance occurs in the European beewolf (Philanthus triangulum), a digger wasp that hunts honeybees and provisions them for its offspring in underground nests. Previous research has shown that bacterial symbionts of the genus Streptomyces live in the wasp’s antennae and on the larval cocoons. The bacteria produce a cocktail of nine different antibiotics that fend off detrimental fungi and bacteria from infecting the developing larva in the cocoon.

This strategy to avoid infections is comparable to the combination prophylaxis used in human medicine (see press release of February 23, 2010 ("Beewolves Protect their Offspring With Antibiotics - Digger wasp larvae use bacteria against infections": http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/fileadmin/extranet/common/documents/press_releases/Pre...).

The scientists now reconstructed the phylogenies of different beewolf species and their symbionts. An analysis of the beewolf phylogeny revealed that the symbiosis with Streptomyces first originated in the late Cretaceous, between 68 and 110 million years ago. At present, about 170 species of wasps live in symbiosis with the protective bacteria. The comparison of host and symbionts phylogenies yielded another surprising finding:

The symbionts of all beewolf species are very closely related, but their phylogeny does not exactly reflect that of their hosts, although this would be expected in case of perfect transmission of symbionts from mother to its progeny. “This pattern indicates that while beewolves occasionally replace their bacteria, they always do so with the symbiont of another beewolf species” explains Martin Kaltenpoth. “Although free-living relatives of the symbiotic bacteria are very common in beewolf habitats, they are apparently not able to stably infect beewolves and replace the native symbionts.”

To elucidate how beewolves maintain the association with their specific symbionts, the scientists generated symbiont-free beewolves and then infected them either with their native symbionts or with a related bacterium from the environment. Although both microbes grew in the wasps' antennae, only the native symbiont was successfully transferred to the offspring. “Preventing transmission of other – possibly detrimental – microbes might be important to avoid infection of the cocoon.

At the same time, beewolves ensure that their offspring inherit the true defensive symbiont”, concludes Erhard Strohm. The beewolves' strategy to transmit the appropriate symbionts provides a unique glimpse into how a symbiosis can remain stable over millions of years, and it helps explain the abundance and persistence of symbiotic associations in insects. In the future, the scientists hope to uncover the molecular basis of how beewolves manage to selectively prevent transmission of non-native bacteria. [MK]

Original Publication:
Kaltenpoth, M., Roeser-Mueller, K., Koehler, S., Peterson, A., Nechitaylo, T., Stubblefield, J.W., Herzner, G., Seger, J. & Strohm, E. (2014). Partner choice and fidelity stabilize coevolution in a Cretaceous-age defensive symbiosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. April 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1400457111
http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1400457111


Further Information:
Dr. Martin Kaltenpoth, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07745 Jena, Germany, +49 3641 57-1800, mkaltenpoth@ice.mpg.de

Contact and Picture Requests:
Angela Overmeyer M.A., Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07745 Jena, +49 3641 57-2110, overmeyer@ice.mpg.de

Download of high-resolution images via http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/735.html

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/1085.html?&L=0

Angela Overmeyer | Max-Planck-Institut

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology
29.07.2016 | Boyce Thompson Institute

nachricht Molecular troublemakers instead of antibiotics?
29.07.2016 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-assembling nano inks form conductive and transparent grids during imprint

Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.

To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...

Im Focus: The Glowing Brain

A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology

On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Vortex laser offers hope for Moore's Law

29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology

29.07.2016 | Life Sciences

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>