Termites and their symbionts

Studying the microbiome of social insects, such as termites, helps to identify new aspects of small-molecule mediated symbiotic relations. At the same time it serves platform to identify new antibacterial and antifungal agents.

Fungus-growing termites

The fungus-growing termite system is a prime example of multilateral symbiosis. The ancient farming symbiosis involves a termite host (Macrotermitinae), a specialized fungal mutualist (Termitomyces) maintained in an optimized fungal garden system (fungus comb), the presence of complex and highly adapted bacterial communities within the insect gut and fungus comb, and the co-evolved garden weed (Pseudoxylaria).

Natural Products from protective symbionts

Within this project, we aim to isolate, characterize and understand the role of natural products produced by microorganisms associated with fungus-growing termites. We used various different culturing techniques to isolate termite-associated microbes and pursued the whole genome sequence of several key isolates. Subsequent chemical analysis of our isolates in axenic and co-cultures revealed several new natural product classes showing a diverse set of biological activities.

Biosynthetic pathway analysis

We have sequenced the genomes of selected new microbial species to analyze their biosynthetic potential and potentially detect new natural products. The comparative analysis of the acquired genomic information likely reveals new biosynthetic enzymes and new biochemical transformations.

Documentation

Termine Fungiculture – A Hidden Treasure Trove

Wie ein Antibiotikacocktail Insekten schützt

Funding

  • ChemBioSys (DFG) seit 2016
  • BiBiMac (DFG-ANR) ab 2018

Our Collaborations

Staff

Christine Beemelmanns
René Benndorf
Janis Fricke
Louisa Hanske-Braun
Judith Hoffmann
Nina Kreuzenbeck
Felix Schalk
Jan Schwitalla
Elena Seibel

Publications

Conlon BH, Gostinčar C, Fricke J, Kreuzenbeck NB, Daniel JM, Schlosser MSL, Peereboom N, Aanen DK, de Beer ZW, Beemelmanns C, Gunde-Cimerman N, Poulsen M (2021) Genome reduction and relaxed selection is associated with the transition to symbiosis in the basidiomycete genus Podaxis. iScience 24(6), 102680.
Lee SR, Guo H, Yu JS, Park M, Dahse HM, Jung WH, Beemelmanns C, Kim KH (2021) Revised structural assignment of azalomycins based on genomic and chemical analysis. Org Chem Front 8, 4791-4798.
Murphy R, Benndorf R, De Beer ZW, Vollmers J, Kaster AK, Beemelmanns C, Poulsen M (2021) Comparative genomics reveals sanitary and catabolic capabilities of Actinobacteria within the fungus-farming termite symbiosis. mSphere 6(2), e01233-20.
Schalk F, Gostinčar C, Kreuzenbeck NB, Conlon BH, Sommerwerk E, Rabe P, Burkhardt I, Krüger T, Kniemeyer O, Brakhage AA, Gunde-Cimerman N, de Beer ZW, Dickschat JS, Poulsen M, Beemelmanns C (2021) The termite fungal cultivar Termitomyces combines diverse enzymes and oxidative reactions for plant biomass conversion. mBio 12(3), e0355120.
Schorn MA, Verhoeven S, Ridder L, Huber F, Acharya DD, Aksenov AA, Aleti G, Moghaddam JA, Aron AT, Aziz S, Bauermeister A, Bauman KD, Baunach M, Beemelmanns C, Beman JM, Berlanga-Clavero MV, Blacutt AA, Bode HB, Boullie A, Brejnrod A, Bugni TS, Calteau A, Cao L, Carrión VJ, Castelo-Branco R, Chanana S, Chase AB, Chevrette MG, Costa-Lotufo LV, Crawford JM, Currie CR, Cuypers B, Dang T, de Rond T, Demko AM, Dittmann E, Du C, Drozd C, Dujardin JC, Dutton RJ, Edlund A, Fewer DP, Garg N, Gauglitz JM, Gentry EC, Gerwick L, Glukhov E, Gross H, Gugger M, Guillén Matus DG, Helfrich EJN, Hempel BF, Hur JS, Iorio M, Jensen PR, Kang KB, Kaysser L, Kelleher NL, Kim CS, Kim KH, Koester I, König GM, Leao T, Lee SR, Lee YY, Li X, Little JC, Maloney KN, Männle D, Martin H C, McAvoy AC, Metcalf WW, Mohimani H, Molina-Santiago C, Moore BS, Mullowney MW, Muskat M, Nothias LF, O'Neill EC, Parkinson EI, Petras D, Piel J, Pierce EC, Pires K, Reher R, Romero D, Roper MC, Rust M, Saad H, Saenz C, Sanchez LM, Sørensen SJ, Sosio M, Süssmuth RD, Sweeney D, Tahlan K, Thomson RJ, Tobias NJ, Trindade-Silva AE, van Wezel GP, Wang M, Weldon KC, Zhang F, Ziemert N, Duncan KR, Crüsemann M, Rogers S, Dorrestein PC, Medema MH, van der Hooft JJJ (2021) A community resource for paired genomic and metabolomic data mining. Nat Chem Biol 17(4), 363-368.
Um S, Guo H, Thiengmag S, Benndorf R, Murphy R, Rischer M, Braga D, Poulsen M, de Beer ZW, Lackner G, Beemelmanns C (2021) Comparative genomic and metabolic analysis of Streptomyces sp. RB110 morphotypes illuminates genomic rearrangements and formation of a new 46-membered antimicrobial macrolide. ACS Chem Biol 16(9), 1482-1492.
Um S, Seibel E, Schalk F, Balluf S, Beemelmanns C (2021) Targeted isolation of saalfelduracin B-D from Amycolatopsis saalfeldensis using LC-MS/MS-based molecular networking. J Nat Prod 84(4), 1002-1011.
Benndorf R, Martin K, Küfner M, de Beer ZW, Vollmers J, Kaster AK, Beemelmanns C (2020) Actinomadura rubteroloni sp. nov. and Actinomadura macrotermitis sp. nov., isolated from the gut of the fungus growing-termite Macrotermes natalensis. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 70(10), 5255-5262.
Benndorf R, Schwitalla JW, Martin K, de Beer ZW, Vollmers J, Kaster AK, Poulsen M, Beemelmanns C (2020) Nocardia macrotermitis sp. nov. and Nocardia aurantia sp. nov., isolated from the gut of the fungus-growing termite Macrotermes natalensis. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 70(10), 5226-5234.
Guo H, Schwitalla JW, Benndorf R, Baunach M, Steinbeck C, Görls H, de Beer ZW, Regestein L, Beemelmanns C (2020) Gene cluster activation in a bacterial symbiont leads to halogenated angucyclic maduralactomycins and spirocyclic actinospirols. Org Lett 22(7), 2634-2638.