Martin Kaltenpoth (Johannes Guttenberg University)

Outsourcing immunity: Microbial symbionts for pathogen defense in insects
Nov 30, 2016, 12:00 pm12:00 pm
Thomas Laboratory, 003
Free and open to the university community and the public.


Martin Kaltenpoth
Professor of Evolutionary Ecology
Johannes Guttenberg University


Event Description

Symbiotic associations with microbes are important driving forces of evolutionary innovation. While many symbioses have a nutritional basis, an increasing number of defensive alliances are being discovered, particularly in insects. We found that two taxonomically distant insect groups, solitary digger wasps (the so-called “beewolves”) and a group of herbivorous beetles, are associated with antibiotic-producing bacteria that defend the developing insect offspring from pathogenic fungi. In both cases, protection is mediated by a cocktail of antimicrobial compounds, in analogy to combination treatments used in human medicine. I will discuss the evolutionary origin, ecological dynamics, and molecular basis of these defensive symbiotic alliances as well as the consequences for the symbiotic partners. Insects and their protective symbionts do not only provide a glimpse into how organisms of different kingdoms team up for defense, but also present promising sources of novel bioactive molecules and allow to study the action of these chemicals in an ecological and evolutionary context.

Mohamed Donia & Ned Wingreen, Department of Molecular Biology
Event Category
Butler Seminar Series