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Coevolution of parasitic fungi and insect hosts

: Joop, G.; Vilcinskas, A.

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Zoology 119 (2016), Nr.4, S.350-358
ISSN: 0944-2006
ISSN: 1873-2720
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer IME ()

Parasitic fungi and their insect hosts provide an intriguing model system for dissecting the complex co-evolutionary processes, which result in Red Queen dynamics. To explore the genetic basis behind host–parasite coevolution we chose two parasitic fungi (Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae, representing the most important entomopathogenic fungi used in the biological control of pest or vector insects) and two established insect model hosts (the greater wax moth Galleria mellonella and the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum) for which sequenced genomes or comprehensive transcriptomes are available. Focusing on these model organisms, we review the knowledge about the interactions between fungal molecules operating as virulence factors and insect host-derived defense molecules mediating antifungal immunity. Particularly the study of the intimate interactions between fungal proteinases and corresponding host-derived proteinase inhibitors elucidated novel coevolutionary mechanisms such as functional shifts or diversification of involved effector molecules. Complementarily, we compared the outcome of coevolution experiments using the parasitic fungus B. bassiana and two different insect hosts which were initially either susceptible (Galleria mellonella) or resistant (Tribolium castaneum). Taking a snapshot of host–parasite coevolution, we show that parasitic fungi can overcome host barriers such as external antimicrobial secretions just as hosts can build new barriers, both within a relatively short time of coevolution.