Document Type



Molecular & Cell Biology


Prof. Jonathan Klassen, Dept. of Molecular & Cell Biology


Life Sciences | Microbiology


Fungus-growing ants defend their fungal mutualist against pathogens through a number of chemical and behavioral mechanisms. Work by Dr. Jonathan Klassen’s lab has found that Trachymyrmex septentrionalis ants maintain their fungal symbionts’ health through physical removal (“weeding”) upon infection with pathogenic fungi in the genus Trichoderma. Ants also exhibited weeding behavior when the fungus was inoculated with peptaibols, a class of secondary metabolites produced by Trichoderma, suggesting that these molecules act as chemical cues that induce ant weeding. However, the mechanisms by which weeding behaviors are communicated between the ants and their fungal symbiont are unknown. Behavioral experiments demonstrated that T. septentrionalis ants exhibit weeding behaviors in response to Trichoderma metabolite cues and to cultivar death and that peptaibol-induced weeding has a characteristic temporal pattern that is no longer present after cold treatment. This work provides several directions for further behavioral and molecular analysis to determine if weeding behaviors in response to different stimuli are mediated through similar or distinct mechanisms.

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