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Beewolves protect their offspring with antibiotics
Date:2/28/2010

gal and bacterial infection. Martin Kaltenpoth and colleagues from the University of Wurzburg had already shown several years ago that beewolves form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria of the genus Streptomyces. Female beewolves cultivate these bacteria in specialized antennal gland reservoirs and apply them to the ceiling of the brood cells. Beewolf larvae later take up the bacteria and transfer the symbionts actively to their cocoons, thereby increasing their survival probability. However, it has been unclear so far how the protection is achieved.

Scientists of the groups of Ale Svato and Martin Kaltenpoth at the Max Planck Institute in cooperation with their colleagues at the University of Regensburg and the Hans-Knoell-Institute in Jena now discovered that the symbionts produce nine different antibiotic substances. For the first time the biologists were able to identify these substances directly in the natural environment, i.e. on the beewolf cocoon (see figure). Other studies on protective symbioses could detect antibiotic substances only after isolation and cultivation of the symbionts in artificial culture media. By means of a novel technique of imaging mass spectrometry (LDI imaging), the Jena scientists could demonstrate that the antibiotics are primarily present on the exterior of the cocoon, reducing the risk of potentially harmful side-effects on the larvae.

"Combination Medication" broadens the spectrum of efficacy

In biotests with different pathogenic fungi and bacteria the scientists observed that beewolves utilize the principle of combination medication: "A combined treatment with streptochlorin and eight different piericidines we were able to isolate from the cocoon helps to fend off a very broad spectrum of microorganisms; this cannot be achieved with a single substance. This means that millions of years ago, beewolves and their symbionts have already evolved a strategy that is known from human medicine as combinatio
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Contact: Martin Kaltenpoth
mkaltenpoth@ice.mpg.de
49-364-157-1800
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Source:Eurekalert  

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