Speakers - Mônica T. Pupo

Type of the Presentation: (Short lecture)


Volatile organic compounds from bacteria and leaf-cutter ants: an example of convergent chemistry?


Mônica T. Pupo1

1Faculdade de Ciências Farmacêuticas de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP 14040-903, BRAZIL;


The metabolic capabilities of microorganisms enable hosts to access chemical diversity unavailable from their genomes; therefore, the exploitation of microbial symbionts might lead to chemical innovation and understanding of evolution. We have been developing an International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG)1,2 project between Brazil and the US based on the highly-evolved fungus-growing ant quadripartite symbiosis between three mutualists and one parasite to decipher chemical-ecological interactions between the symbionts, and also to discover new biologically active molecules.

Leaf-cutter ants (Atta spp.) use trail pheromones to coordinate their communal plant gathering. We have recently found that an ant-associated bacterium produces a small family of pyrazines that includes members previously identified as trail and alarm pheromones isolated from the host ants. Isotope feeding experiments revealed the bacterium utilizes specific amino acids as biosynthetic precursors of trail pheromone pyrazines, and a biosynthetic pathway was proposed. The producers of volatile pyrazines in the A. sexdens rubropilosa ants merit future investigation in order to better understand the possible bacterial contribution to pheromonal communication in leaf-cutter ants.


Financial support: FIC/NIH Grant U19TW009872; FAPESP Grant 2013/50954-0


1 http://www.fic.nih.gov/programs/pages/biodiversity.aspx

2 Pupo, M. T.; Currie, C. R.; Clardy. J. J. Braz. Chem. Soc. 2017, 28, 393-401.