Episode Summary

Actinomycete bacteria are often helpful to insects, but some can be deadly yet still attractive!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Streptomyces corchorusii

Jesse's takeaways

Actinomycete bacteria do a lot of interesting things. They grow like fungi, with mycelia and spores, and produce many interesting compounds, including antibiotics and other useful pharmaceuticals. They often team up with insects, producing such compounds to assist them in competing with other organisms or resisting disease.
But such amazingly helpful powers of chemistry can also be amazingly harmful. In this study, multiple strains of these bacteria were able to kill fruit fly larvae that ingested their spores. The toxin the bacteria produced was a chemical that interferes with cells' DNA-protein interactions. The bacteria also produced an odor that, in certain concentrations, lured the larvae to their doom.


Chemical entrapment and killing of insects by bacteria

Journal Paper

Ho LK, Daniel-Ivad M, Jeedigunta SP, Li J, Iliadi KG, Boulianne GL, Hurd TR, Smibert CA, Nodwell JR. 2020. Chemical entrapment and killing of insects by bacteria. Nat Commun 11:4608.

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