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 Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>