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Chemical Interaction among Termite-Associated Microbes

Mevers, Emily, Chouvenc, Thomas, Su, Nan-Yao, Clardy, Jon
Journal of chemical ecology 2017 v.43 no.11-12 pp. 1078-1085
Actinobacteria, Coptotermes formosanus, Trichoderma harzianum, bacteria, fungi, metabolites, saprophytes, soil, toxicity
Bacteria and fungi in shared environments compete with one another for common substrates, and this competition typically involves microbially-produced small molecules. An investigation of one shared environmental niche, the carton material of the Formosan subterranean termite Coptotermes formosanus, identified the participants on one of these molecular exchanges. Molecular characterization of several termite-associated actinobacteria strains identified eleven known antimicrobial metabolites that may aid in protecting the C. formosanus colony from pathogenic fungal infections. One particular actinobacterial-derived small molecule, bafilomycin C1, elicited a strong chemical response from Trichoderma harzianum, a common soil saprophyte. Upon purification and structure elucidation, three major fungal metabolites were identified, t22-azaphilone, cryptenol, and homodimericin A. Both t22-azaphilone and homodimericin A are strongly upregulated, 123- and 38-fold, respectively, when exposed to bafilomycin C1, suggesting each play a role in defending T. harzianum from the toxic effect of bafilomycin C1.