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DNA barcoding and biotechnological potential of microfungi associated with leaf-cutting ants


Given the status of agricultural pests, the leaf-cutting ants interact with a myriad of microbes including microfungi (yeasts and filamentous fungi). This proposal aims to apply the molecular tool "DNA barcode" to evaluate the complex microfungal communities associated with two ant species which display different foraging behaviors: Atta sexdens rubropilosa (dicot-cutting ant) and Atta bisphaerica (grass-cutting ant). Specific DNA sequences will be generated for each fungal isolate for fast taxonomic identification. The results will contribute for: a) the improvement of the culture collection harbored at the Bioscience Institute (UNESP) by depositing authentic/certified fungal strains; b) for the structuring of a national DNA sequence database. Several research groups are involved to build up such database in a joint effort known as The Network for Molecular Identification of the Brazilian Biodiversity (CNPq Grant 50/2010) which aims to barcode several groups of organisms from the Brazilian biodiversity. Besides the ecological/taxonomic perspective, this proposal also aims to assess the biotechnological potential of such microfungi. Strains will be screened for the production of hydrolytic enzymes such as cellulase, xylanase, pectinase, and others of industrial interest. In addition to enzymes, strains will be screened for their ability to ferment pentoses derived from plant biomass. Fungi which are able to ferment simple sugars like D-xylose and L-arabinose are highly important on the industrial conversion of plant substrates into biofuels (for example, ethanol). In Brazil large amounts of plant biomass are generated each year which prompt the search for fungal strains able to ferment pentoses. (AU)

Articles published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the research grant:
Estudo desvenda mecanismo evolutivo que pode levar ao controle de formigas 
Study reveals evolutionary mechanism that could lead to control of leafcutter ants 
Un estudio devela el mecanismo evolutivo que puede llevar al control de las hormigas 

Scientific publications (12)
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
BIZARRIA, RODOLFO; MOIA, ISABELA C.; MONTOYA, QUIMI V.; POLEZEL, DANILO A.; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Soluble Compounds of Filamentous Fungi Harm the Symbiotic Fungus of Leafcutter Ants. Current Microbiology, v. 75, n. 12, p. 1602-1608, DEC 2018. Web of Science Citations: 0.
DE OLIVEIRA, TASSIO BRITO; GOSTINCAR, CENE; GUNDE-CIMERMAN, NINA; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Genome mining for peptidases in heat-tolerant and mesophilic fungi and putative adaptations for thermostability. BMC Genomics, v. 19, FEB 20 2018. Web of Science Citations: 1.
BARCOTO, MARIANA O.; PEDROSA, FELIPE; BUENO, ODAIR C.; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Pathogenic nature of Syncephalastrum in Atta sexdens rubropilosa fungus gardens. Pest Management Science, v. 73, n. 5, p. 999-1009, MAY 2017. Web of Science Citations: 5.
VARANDA-HAIFIG, SADALA SCHMIDT; ALBARICI, TATIANE REGINA; NUNES, PABLO HENRIQUE; HAIFIG, IVES; VIEIRA, PAULO CEZAR; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Nature of the interactions between hypocrealean fungi and the mutualistic fungus of leaf-cutter ants. ANTONIE VAN LEEUWENHOEK INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GENERAL AND MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY, v. 110, n. 4, p. 593-605, APR 2017. Web of Science Citations: 7.
DE OLIVEIRA, TASSIO BRITO; PADILHA LOPES, VIVIANE CRISTINA; BARBOSA, FERNANDO NOGUEIRA; FERRO, MILENE; MEIRELLES, LUCAS ANDRADE; SETTE, LARA DURAES; GOMES, ELENI; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Fungal communities in pressmud composting harbour beneficial and detrimental fungi for human welfare. MICROBIOLOGY-SGM, v. 162, n. 7, p. 1147-1156, JUL 2016. Web of Science Citations: 1.
PEREIRA, JAQUELINE S.; COSTA, RAFAEL R.; NAGAMOTO, NILSON S.; FORTI, LUIZ C.; PAGNOCCA, FERNANDO C.; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Comparative analysis of fungal communities in colonies of two leaf-cutting ant species with different substratum preferences. Fungal Ecology, v. 21, p. 68-75, JUN 2016. Web of Science Citations: 7.
MONTOYA, QUIMI VIDAURRE; MEIRELLES, LUCAS ANDRADE; CHAVERRI, PRISCILA; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Unraveling Trichoderma species in the attine ant environment: description of three new taxa. ANTONIE VAN LEEUWENHOEK INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GENERAL AND MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY, v. 109, n. 5, p. 633-651, MAY 2016. Web of Science Citations: 13.
DOS SANTOS, JULIANA A.; VIEIRA, JULIANA M. F.; VIDEIRA, ALEXANDRE; MEIRELLES, LUCAS A.; RODRIGUES, ANDRE; TANIWAKI, MARTA H.; SETTE, LARA D. Marine-derived fungus Aspergillus cf. tubingensis LAMAI 31: a new genetic resource for xylanase production. AMB EXPRESS, v. 6, MAR 24 2016. Web of Science Citations: 4.
DOS SANTOS REIS, BARBARA MONIQUE; SILVA, ALINE; ALVAREZ, MARTIN ROBERTO; DE OLIVEIRA, TASSIO BRITO; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Fungal communities in gardens of the leafcutter ant Atta cephalotes in forest and cabruca agrosystems of southern Bahia State (Brazil). FUNGAL BIOLOGY, v. 119, n. 12, p. 1170-1178, DEC 2015. Web of Science Citations: 7.
MEIRELLES, LUCAS A.; SOLOMON, SCOTT E.; BACCI, JR., MAURICIO; WRIGHT, APRIL M.; MUELLER, ULRICH G.; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Shared Escovopsis parasites between leaf-cutting and non-leaf-cutting ants in the higher attine fungus-growing ant symbiosis. ROYAL SOCIETY OPEN SCIENCE, v. 2, n. 9 SEP 2015. Web of Science Citations: 14.
MEIRELLES, LUCAS A.; MONTOYA, QUIMI V.; SOLOMON, SCOTT E.; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. New Light on the Systematics of Fungi Associated with Attine Ant Gardens and the Description of Escovopsis kreiselii sp nov.. PLoS One, v. 10, n. 1 JAN 24 2015. Web of Science Citations: 13.
DE OLIVEIRA, TASSIO BRITO; GOMES, ELENI; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Thermophilic fungi in the new age of fungal taxonomy. EXTREMOPHILES, v. 19, n. 1, p. 31-37, JAN 2015. Web of Science Citations: 14.

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