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Bacteria tend leafcutter ants' gardens
Date:3/1/2012

n, Burnum and their co-authors set out to help resolve the debate by doing a comprehensive survey of the various bacteria species that live in the gardens and examining the suite of proteins those bacteria produce. They traveled to a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute site near Gamboa, Panama, and gathered samples of fungal gardens tended by two ant species, Atta colombica and Atta cephalotes.

Aylward and several others on the research team are part of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, one of three Bioenergy Research Centers established by DOE's Office of Science in 2007 to accelerate research toward the development of cost-effective advanced biofuels from nonfood plant fiber. The University of Wisconsin-Madison leads the Great Lakes center.

To produce results that more accurately reflect the large diversity of real-world gardens, the team collected large samples with bits of leaves, ants, fungi and bacteria intermixed instead of just gathering samples of the bacteria they intended to study. This allowed them to better examine the entire community of bacteria that live in the gardens and prevented them from missing some bacterial species. The team then studied the bacterial community's genes and proteins an approach known as metagenomics and metaproteomics.

The researchers sequenced their genetic samples at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory's DOE Joint Genome Institute. With the help of an extensive library of bacterial genes developed by co-author Cameron Currie, team members at University of Wisconsin-Madison identified thousands of bacterial genetic sequences from the two ant gardens. More than two-thirds of the bacterial species found were from just a few groups. More than half of those identified belong to the family Enterobacteriaceae, whose members are known to ferment sugars and include the intestinal microbes that help animals digest food.

From the bacteria, Burnum and her PNNL col
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Contact: Franny White
franny.white@pnnl.gov
509-375-6904
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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