The chemical ecology of the fungus-farming termite symbiosis†
Covering: September 1972 to December 2020
Explorations of complex symbioses have often elucidated a plethora of previously undescribed chemical compounds that may serve ecological functions in signalling, communication or defence. A case in point is the subfamily of termites that cultivate a fungus as their primary food source and maintain complex bacterial communities, from which a series of novel compound discoveries have been made. Here, we summarise the origins and types of 375 compounds that have been discovered from the symbiosis over the past four decades and discuss the potential for synergistic actions between compounds within the complex chemical mixtures in which they exist. We go on to highlight how vastly underexplored the diversity and geographic distribution of the symbiosis is, which leaves ample potential for natural product discovery of compounds of both ecological and medical importance.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Chemical Ecology of Microbial Symbioses