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Friday, July 19, 2019

Variable genetic architectures produce virtually identical molecules in bacterial symbionts of fungus-growing ants.

Small molecules produced by Actinobacteria have played a prominent role in both drug discovery and organic chemistry. As part of a larger study of the actinobacterial symbionts of fungus-growing ants, we discovered a small family of three previously unreported piperazic acid-containing cyclic depsipeptides, gerumycins A-C. The gerumycins are slightly smaller versions of dentigerumycin, a cyclic depsipeptide that selectively inhibits a common fungal pathogen, Escovopsis. We had previously identified this molecule from a Pseudonocardia associated with Apterostigma dentigerum, and now we report the molecule from an associate of the more highly derived ant Trachymyrmex cornetzi. The three previously unidentified compounds, gerumycins…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Herbivorous turtle ants obtain essential nutrients from a conserved nitrogen-recycling gut microbiome.

Nitrogen acquisition is a major challenge for herbivorous animals, and the repeated origins of herbivory across the ants have raised expectations that nutritional symbionts have shaped their diversification. Direct evidence for N provisioning by internally housed symbionts is rare in animals; among the ants, it has been documented for just one lineage. In this study we dissect functional contributions by bacteria from a conserved, multi-partite gut symbiosis in herbivorous Cephalotes ants through in vivo experiments, metagenomics, and in vitro assays. Gut bacteria recycle urea, and likely uric acid, using recycled N to synthesize essential amino acids that are acquired by…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

High-quality genome assemblies reveal long non-coding RNAs expressed in ant brains.

Ants are an emerging model system for neuroepigenetics, as embryos with virtually identical genomes develop into different adult castes that display diverse physiology, morphology, and behavior. Although a number of ant genomes have been sequenced to date, their draft quality is an obstacle to sophisticated analyses of epigenetic gene regulation. We reassembled de novo high-quality genomes for two ant species, Camponotus floridanus and Harpegnathos saltator. Using long reads enabled us to span large repetitive regions and improve genome contiguity, leading to comprehensive and accurate protein-coding annotations that facilitated the identification of a Gp-9-like gene as differentially expressed in Harpegnathos castes.…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Formicamycins, antibacterial polyketides produced by Streptomyces formicae isolated from African Tetraponera plant-ants.

We report a new Streptomyces species named S. formicae that was isolated from the African fungus-growing plant-ant Tetraponera penzigi and show that it produces novel pentacyclic polyketides that are active against MRSA and VRE. The chemical scaffold of these compounds, which we have called the formicamycins, is similar to the fasamycins identified from the heterologous expression of clones isolated from environmental DNA, but has significant differences that allow the scaffold to be decorated with up to four halogen atoms. We report the structures and bioactivities of 16 new molecules and show, using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, that biosynthesis of these compounds…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Selvamicin, an atypical antifungal polyene from two alternative genomic contexts.

The bacteria harbored by fungus-growing ants produce a variety of small molecules that help maintain a complex multilateral symbiosis. In a survey of antifungal compounds from these bacteria, we discovered selvamicin, an unusual antifungal polyene macrolide, in bacterial isolates from two neighboring ant nests. Selvamicin resembles the clinically important antifungals nystatin A1 and amphotericin B, but it has several distinctive structural features: a noncationic 6-deoxymannose sugar at the canonical glycosylation site and a second sugar, an unusual 4-O-methyldigitoxose, at the opposite end of selvamicin’s shortened polyene macrolide. It also lacks some of the pharmacokinetic liabilities of the clinical agents and…

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