Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2018

Thesis Advisor(s)

Jonathan Klassen

Honors Major

Molecular and Cell Biology


Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology | Genomics


The relationship between the fungus-growing ant Trachymyrmex septentrionalis, its symbiotic cultivar fungus, and the transient and residential community of microorganisms is a diverse and complex symbiosis that has evolved over space and time. The fungus garden, comprised primarily of the cultivar fungus belonging to the family Leucocoprineae,provides an environment that hosts many bacteria, which may also play an important role in this symbiosis. Although it is known that Pseudonocardia bacteria defend the ant host against fungal pathogens, other species of bacteria that are present in these fungus gardens also likely contribute to this symbiosis. Previous studies of this system have revealed the importance of secondary metabolites in mediating the interactions between microorganisms and their hosts. In collaboration with Dr. Sarah Kopac, I have sequenced the genomes of several of these bacteria that were isolated from T.septentrionalisfungus gardens using Pacific Biosciences sequencing technology through a collaboration with the Joint Genome Institute. I also sequenced the genomes of three Delftiaisolates through services provided by the UConn MARS facility to identify the biosynthetic gene clusters for secondary metabolites that these strains produce. By assembling and annotating these genomes, I have identified genes for the biosynthesis of these metabolites to support collaborators who are characterizing the metabolomes of these strains. This will provide a better understanding of the role that these resident bacteria play in T.septentrionalis fungus gardensand provide a next step for the isolation of the secondary metabolites that they produce.