Natural products play an important role in the discovery of new bioactive compounds. In this area, microorganisms are essencial once they are capable to produce highly complex chemicals as secondary metabolites, performing many biological functions in which several drugs originated or were inspired. Symbiosis is an intimate relationship between two or more organisms and the beneficial interactions between eukaryotic organisms and bacteria belong to evolutionary process of plants and animals. One of the best-known symbiotic associations was established over 50 million years between Attini ants and fungi cultivated by them for food. This association can be harmed by attack of pathogenic fungi of the genus Escovopsis. Thus one of the defense strategies acquired during the evolution of insects was the symbiotic association with bacteria capable of biosynthesize antimicrobial natural products against pathogens. This project proposes the study of natural products biosynthesized by bacteria associated with Acromyrmex ants and their fungal garden. 128 microorganisms have been isolated and preliminary results of antagonisms assays are promising; six of them were selected and actinobacteria will be cultured in the laboratory to obtain extracts, which will be fractionated for the isolation and identification of natural products. It is also intended to correlate the chemicals produced by these microorganisms to possible ecological functions and potential therapeutic applications by submitting to biological/ pharmacological tests.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: