Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

News from the ant kingdom

05.09.2012
Many pathogenic bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
New agents are needed urgently, and the quest for them is also being extended to the ant world. It is here that Würzburg biologists have now made a new discovery.

Insects, too, have to fight off bacteria. Ants, for example, live in the ground and often feed on the cadavers of other animals, so they inevitably come into very close contact with potentially harmful microorganisms. One way in which they defend themselves is by using small protein molecules, known as antimicrobial peptides, which can kill bacteria.

“Such peptides are found in all living organisms, including humans, and there are many different types of them,” explains Carolin Ratzka from the Biocenter at the University of Würzburg. The doctoral student, working with her mentor, Professor Roy Gross, and other colleagues, has now proven the presence of some of these peptides while characterizing the antimicrobial potential of the carpenter ant (Camponotus floridanus). The researchers discovered a few surprising things that might also have consequences for commonly accepted hypotheses regarding the immune system of social insects.

Peptides in social insects

The genetic material of the fruit fly Drosophila contains the blueprints for some 20 different antimicrobial peptides, and this number is also high in other insects. “Yet, social insects like bees and ants have only very few peptide genes,” says Carolin Ratzka.

This has led some biologists to conclude that bees and their like do not need so many of these deterrents because they practise a kind of social defence: the insects groom each other, separate the sick from the rest of the brood, and keep their nests clean. This might spare them the cost-intensive production of many different defence peptides.

Numerous peptides from a single gene

But the number of antimicrobial peptides is now higher than originally thought, at least in ants, as the Würzburg scientists reveal in the journal PLoS ONE. In the carpenter ant they found a further peptide gene in addition to the two previously known: this has a recurring structure and therefore contains the blueprints for as many as seven antimicrobial peptides. The researchers then examined other ant species as well and found that in one of them the gene can even produce 23 different peptides.

“The individual peptides differ from one another in their sequence, which might have an impact on their efficacy against bacteria,” says Professor Roy Gross. Further studies are now needed to show whether this assumption is correct and which bacteria are targeted by the newly discovered peptides. The Würzburg biologists have every confidence. After all, they are familiar with very similar peptides in honey bees – and these peptides are all capable of combating pathogenic bacteria.

Ratzka C, Förster F, Liang C, Kupper M, Dandekar T, et al. (2012): Molecular Characterization of Antimicrobial Peptide Genes of the Carpenter Ant Camponotus floridanus. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43036, 9 August 2012, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043036

Contact

Carolin Ratzka, Department of Microbiology, Biocenter at the University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-88029, carolin.ratzka@uni-wuerzburg.de

Robert Emmerich | Uni Würzburg
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New type of photosynthesis discovered
17.06.2018 | Imperial College London

nachricht New ID pictures of conducting polymers discover a surprise ABBA fan
17.06.2018 | University of Warwick

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A sprinkle of platinum nanoparticles onto graphene makes brain probes more sensitive

15.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?

15.06.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Perovskite-silicon solar cell research collaboration hits 25.2% efficiency

15.06.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>