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 Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover

nachricht First transcription atlas of all wheat genes expands prospects for research and cultivation
17.08.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>