Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Beewolves use a gas to preserve food

11.06.2019

Scientists discovered that the eggs of the European beewolf produce nitric oxide. The gas prevents the larvae’s food from getting moldy in the warm and humid brood cells.

Food stored in warm and humid conditions gets moldy very quickly und thus becomes inedible or even toxic. To prevent this, we use refrigerators and freezers as well as various other methods of preservation.


A female beewolf carries a paralyzed honey bee to its nest.

© Gudrun Herzner – For exclusive use in reporting this press release.


A bee with a beewolf egg. The release of nitric oxide has been made visible as bright spots by using a fluorescent dye.

© Erhard Strohm – For exclusive use in reporting this press release.

Animals do not have such technical appliances and therefore need to find other ways to preserve food. The European beewolf Philanthus triangulum, a solitary wasp species whose females hunt honey bees, has evolved a successful method of food preservation.

A female takes up to five honey bees into its brood cells where they serve as food for a young beewolf. Female beewolves prefer to build their nests in sunlit and sandy places. The nests are deep and therefore the brood cells are warm and humid.

... more about:
»Beewolves »NO2 »eggs »enzyme »fungi »honey bees »larvae »nitric »nitric oxide »toxic

Such conditions are favorable for the development of the beewolf larvae; however, they also foster the growth of mold fungi. As a matter of fact, bees stored under such conditions in the lab were overgrown by mold within one to three days. Surprisingly, the mold risk for bees was much lower in the nests of beewolves, so that most beewolf larvae were able to finish their eight to ten-day development until they spin a cocoon.

Researchers from the University of Regensburg and the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz (previously at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena) have discovered an amazing mechanism that the beewolves have evolved in order to make sure that their larvae’s food does not get moldy.

“Shortly after oviposition, the brood cells of beewolves smell strikingly like ‘swimming pool’. This smell comes from the egg itself”, explains Prof. Dr. Erhard Strohm, the leader and main author of the study. Bioassays showed that beewolf eggs emit a gas that efficiently kills mold fungi.

A chemical analysis revealed the surprising result that the gas is nitric oxide (NO). The eggs produce nitric oxide in large quantities and release it to the air where is reacts with atmospheric oxygen to nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The measured NO2 concentrations in the brood cells exceed both the occupational exposure limits of NO and NO2 as well as the EU maximum permissible values in cities.

Both NO and NO2 are very reactive and have a strong oxidizing effect. Therefore it is not surprising that high concentrations of the gases kill mold fungi. But how can beewolf eggs synthesize such amounts of NO? The scientists hypothesize that the fact that NO plays an extremely important role in many biochemical processes in almost all organisms from bacteria to mammals is a crucial precondition for the evolution of this mechanisms.

In low doses and due to its high diffusion and reactivity, NO functions as a signal molecule and is, for example, involved in the adjustment of blood pressure and in developmental processes. Higher concentrations are used by many animals as an immune response to kill pathogens.

Although beewolf eggs produce enormous amounts of NO, they use the same enzymes, NO synthases, which are also used by other organisms. Also, the responsible NO synthase gene in beewolves does not have any special characteristics. However, the researchers found a modification in the translation of the gene into the protein, which may be responsible for the unusually high synthesis rate of NO in beewolf eggs.

“Due to so-called alternative splicing the enzyme in the beewolf eggs lacks a segment which may be responsible for regulation. This may have led to the significant increase in enzyme activity,” says Dr. Tobias Engl, the second main author of the publication.

The use of a reactive gases to control mold on food supplies has improved survival of beewolf offspring considerably and represents an evolutionary key invention. This novel defense mechanism against microorganisms is a fascinating example of how existing processes are modified in the course of evolution in such a way that completely new functions are generated.

The discovery of NO as a key defense component against mold fungi increases the spectrum of natural antimicrobial strategies and adds a surprising and intriguing facet to our understanding of this biologically important molecule.

The most amazing aspect of the defense strategy of beewolf eggs is the fact that the eggs are obviously able to survive the extremely toxic conditions they produce themselves. Which mechanism the eggs deploy is the subject of current investigations. The results may not only be interesting for basic research, but also for possible applications in human medicine. A harmful overproduction of NO may also be the result of certain diseases or acute infections. The mechanisms that beewolf eggs use to protect themselves from NO may help to find new therapeutic approaches.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr. Erhard Strohm
Institut für Zoologie
Universität Regensburg
Telelefon: 0941 943-3072
E-Mail: erhard.strohm@ur.de

Originalpublikation:

Erhard Strohm, Gudrun Herzner, Joachim Ruther, Martin Kaltenpoth, Tobias Engl, “Nitric oxide radicals are emitted by wasp eggs to kill mold fungi”, eLife 2019;8:e43718.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.43718

Christina Glaser | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-regensburg.de/

Further reports about: Beewolves NO2 eggs enzyme fungi honey bees larvae nitric nitric oxide toxic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Study reveals how bacteria build essential carbon-fixing machinery
09.07.2020 | University of Liverpool

nachricht Stress testing 'coral in a box'
09.07.2020 | University of Konstanz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Porous graphene ribbons doped with nitrogen for electronics and quantum computing

09.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Record efficiency for printed solar cells

09.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Rock 'n' control

09.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>