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

Grant number: 11/16765-0
Support type:Research Grants - Young Investigators Grants
Duration: January 01, 2012 - December 31, 2014
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Microbiology
Principal Investigator:André Rodrigues
Grantee:André Rodrigues
Home Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Rio Claro. Rio Claro, SP, Brazil
Assoc. researchers:Fernando Carlos Pagnocca ; Lara Durães Sette ; Luiz Carlos Forti ; Mauricio Bacci Junior ; Nilson Satoru Nagamoto ; Odair Correa Bueno
Associated scholarship(s):13/08338-0 - Phylogeny and systematics of the parasite Escovopsis associated with attine ants, BP.MS
12/07217-2 - Metabolic characterization of microfungi associated with leaf-cutting ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), BP.MS
12/07387-5 - Fungal communities in gardens of dicot-cutting and grass-cutting attine ants, BP.MS


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 about the research grant
Study reveals evolutionary mechanism that could lead to control of leafcutter ants 
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