Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 305–317 | Cite as

Escovopsis kreiselii specialization to its native hosts in the fungiculture of the lower attine ant Mycetophylax morschi

  • Bruna Cristina Custodio
  • Andre RodriguesEmail author
Original Paper


Parasite-host associations are widespread in nature and the fungus-growing ants are considered model organisms to study such interactions. These insects cultivate basidiomycetous fungi for food, which are threatened by mycotrophic fungi in the genus Escovopsis. Although recently described from colonies of the lower attine ant Mycetophylax morschi, the biology and pathogenicity of Escovopsis kreiselii are unknown. Herein, we evaluated the interaction of E. kreiselii with fungi cultivated by M. morschi (native hosts) and with a fungus cultivated by another attine ant species (non-native host). In addition, we examined the physical interactions between hypha of E. kreiselii and hypha from its native hosts using scanning electron microscopy. Escovopsis kreiselii inhibited the growth of fungal cultivars by 24% or more (with exception of one isolate), when compared to the fungal cultivars growing alone. Escovopsis kreiselii is attracted towards its native hosts through chemotaxis and inhibition occurs when there is physical contact with the hyphae of the fungal cultivar. As reported for Escovopsis parasites associated with leafcutter ants (higher attines), E. kreiselii growth increased in the presence of its native hosts, even before contact between both fungi occurred. In interactions with the fungal cultivar that is not naturally infected by E. kreiselii (non-native host), it caused inhibition but not at the same magnitude as in native hosts. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that E. kreiselii is an antagonist of the fungus cultivated by M. morschi and can chemically recognize such fungus.


Antagonism Chemotaxis Fungal interactions Host-parasite 



We are grateful to “FAPESP—Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo’’ for financial support given to AR (Grant # 2014/24298-1) and a scholarship to BCC (# 2015/15299-7). We also thank Fernando Carlos Pagnocca for providing isolate FF2006 of the mutualistic fungus and Irina Jiménez Gómez for technical assistance. We would like to thank Lorena Tigre Lacerda, Rodolfo Bizarria Jr, and two anonymous reviewers for providing comments on this manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10482_2018_1158_MOESM1_ESM.docx (672 kb)
Table S1. P-values obtained by the Mann–Whitney non-parametric test. One paired test was carried out for each day of experiment, separately, comparing the mycelial growth areas of each fungal cultivar alone (control) and in the presence of each isolate of Escovopsis kreiselii (LESF053, LESF303, LESF305 and LESF309). Significant differences are highlighted in bold (P < 0.05). Table S2. Pairwise comparisons of the growth curves of Escovopsis kreiselii (LESF053, LESF303, LESF305 and LESF309) alone (control) and against the three fungal cultivars: Native host 1 (AR01), Native host 2 (AR02) and Non-native host (FF2006). P-values obtained with pair comparisons after non-parametric longitudinal data analyses. Figures in bold represent no significant differences. Table S3. Distance (in cm) between the edge of Escovopsis kreiselii mycelium and the end of each track (with the three fungal cultivars and the control—without any fungus), in the fungal choice bioassays. Distinct letters on day 5, day 8 and growth rates represent statistical differences (Friedman; P < 0.05) between treatments. Fig. S1 Mycelial growth of Escovopsis kreiselii LESF053 and the non-native host Leucoagaricus gongylophorus FF2006 in dual-culture. (a) FF2006 inhibiting LESF053 growth, with subsequent darkening of the culture medium in the contact zone between hyphae. (b) LESF053 overgrowing the FF2006 mycelium apparently without release of defense metabolites by the fungal cultivar (no dark zones). (DOCX 673 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and MicrobiologyUNESP – São Paulo State UniversityRio ClaroBrazil
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Social InsectsUNESP – São Paulo State UniversityRio ClaroBrazil

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