Shulin He, Paul R. Johnston, Benno Kuropka, Sophie Lokatis, Christoph Weise, Rudy Plarre, Hans‐Jörg Kunte, Dino P. McMahon

Termite soldiers contribute to social immunity by synthesizing potent oral secretions

News from Apr 23, 2018


antimicrobial; external; immunity; proteome; social; soldier


The importance of soldiers to termite society defense has long been recognized, but the contribution of soldiers to other societal functions, such as colony immunity, is less well understood. We explore this issue by examining the role of soldiers in protecting nestmates against pathogen infection. Even though they are unable to engage in grooming behavior, we find that the presence of soldiers of the Darwin termite, Mastotermes darwiniensis, significantly improves the survival of nestmates following entomopathogenic infection. We also show that the copious exocrine oral secretions produced by Darwin termite soldiers contain a high concentration of proteins involved in digestion, chemical biosynthesis, and immunity. The oral secretions produced by soldiers are sufficient to protect nestmates against infection, and they have potent inhibitory activity against a broad spectrum of microbes. Our findings support the view that soldiers may play an important role in colony immunity, and broaden our understanding of the possible function of soldiers during the origin of soldier‐first societies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Insect Molecular Biology, 2018 Apr 17. Link

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