Combined –omics framework reveals how ant symbionts benefit the Neotropical ant-plant Tococa quadrialata at different levels

Andrea T. Müller, Michael Reichelt, Eric Gabriel Cosio Caravasi, Norma Salinas Revilla, Alex Alberto Nina Quispe, Ding Wang, Heiko Moossen, Heike Geilmann, Jonathan Gershenzon, Tobias G. Köllner, Axel Mithöfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ant-plant defensive mutualism is a widely studied phenomenon, where ants protect their host plants (myrmecophytes) against herbivores in return for the provision of nesting sites and food. However, few studies addressed the influence of ant colonization and herbivory on the plant’s metabolism. We chose the Amazonian plant Tococa quadrialata, living in association with Azteca cf. tonduzi ants for an ant-exclusion study to reveal the chemistry behind this symbiosis. We found that colonized plants did not only benefit from protection but also from increased amino acid and nitrogen content, enabling better performance even in an herbivore-free environment. In contrast, ant-deprived T. quadrialata plants accumulated more ellagitannins, a major class of constitutive defense compounds. Moreover, herbivory-induced jasmonate-mediated defense responses, including the upregulation of signaling and defense genes and the emission of volatiles irrespective of colonization status. Altogether, we show how ant-colonization can influence the general and defense-related metabolism and performance of myrmecophytes.
Original languageSpanish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2022

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