Antifungal actinomycetes associated with the pine bark beetle, Orthotomicus erosus, in South Africa

Research Article
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30 January 2017

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Actinomycete bacteria are often associated with insects that have a mutualistic association with fungi. These bacteria are believed to be important to this insect–fungus association as they produce antibiotics that exclude other saprophytic fungi from the immediate environment. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of potentially protective actinomycetes associated with Orthotomicus erosus, an alien invasive pine bark beetle, in South Africa. This bark beetle and its relatives have an association with Ophiostomatales species which are often the only fungi found in the bark beetle galleries. We hypothesised that antibiotic-producing actinomycetes could be responsible for the paucity of other fungi in the galleries by producing compounds to which the Ophiostoma spp. are tolerant. Several actinomycetes in the genus Streptomyces and one Gordonia sp. were isolated from the beetle. Interestingly, most isolates were from the same species as actinomycetes associated with other pine-infesting insects from other parts of the world, including bark beetles and the woodwasp Sirex noctilio. Most actinomycetes isolated had strong antifungal properties against the selected test fungi, including Ophiostoma ips, which is the most common fungal symbiont of Orthotomicus erosus. Although the actinomycetes did not benefit Ophiostoma ips and the hypothesis was not supported, their sporadic association with Orthotomicus erosus suggests that they could have some impact on the composition of the fungal communities present in the bark beetle galleries, which is at present poorly understood.

  • Discovery of four putative undescribed Streptomyces spp. with antibiotic potential
  • First record of the introduction of actinomycete bacteria with pine-infesting insects into South Africa
  • Actinomycetes from South Africa group with undescribed Streptomyces spp. from pine-infesting insects of North America


Streptomyces; Ophiostomatales; Pinus; mutualism; antibiotics
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