Potential Viral Symbiont in Leaf Cutter Ant System

Open Access
Author:
Jethon, Annalise M
Area of Honors:
Biology
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Marilyn J Roossinck, Thesis Supervisor
  • Benoit A Dayrat, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • virus
  • totivirus
  • Leucoagaricus gongylophorus
  • mutualism
  • symbiosis
  • leaf cutter ants
  • Attini ant system
  • Attini
Abstract:
The ancient Attini ant symbiotic system, also known as the leaf-cutter ant system, is a textbook example of symbiosis. It consists of the Attini ant farmers that feed on the special mycelia structure, gongylidia, that is a part of their Leucoagaricus gongylophorus crop. The system is also host to Escovopsis weberi, a parasitic pathogenic fungus that is kept at bay by a bacterium utilized by the ants (Currie, 2001). Living among and within the three major players, there are many microorganisms that aid in the upkeep of the system that are continuously being discovered as knowledge of the system expands. Leucoagaricus gongylophorus is predicted to be host to a potential viral symbiont, likely a totivirus. The potential for a viral symbiont could expand the knowledge of mutualist viral symbionts to a multipartite symbiotic system. The study is conducted through dsRNA extraction from L. gongylophorus samples, random priming cloning, and RT-PCR. Further analysis through cloning and sequencing will provide the information needed to confirm the identity of the putative viral symbiont.