Specialist and Generalist Fungal Parasites Induce Distinct Biochemical Changes in the Mandible Muscles of Their Host.Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 17; 20(18)IJ
Some parasites have evolved the ability to adaptively manipulate host behavior. One notable example is the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis sensu lato, which has evolved the ability to alter the behavior of ants in ways that enable fungal transmission and lifecycle completion. Because host mandibles are affected by the fungi, we focused on understanding changes in the metabolites of muscles during behavioral modification. We used High-Performance Liquid Chromatography-Mass/Mass (HPLC-MS/MS) to detect the metabolite difference between controls and O. unilateralis-infected ants. There was a significant difference between the global metabolome of O. unilateralis-infected ants and healthy ants, while there was no significant difference between the Beauveria bassiana treatment ants group compared to the healthy ants. A total of 31 and 16 of metabolites were putatively identified from comparisons of healthy ants with O. unilateralis-infected ants and comparisons of B. bassiana with O. unilateralis-infected samples, respectively. This result indicates that the concentrations of sugars, purines, ergothioneine, and hypoxanthine were significantly increased in O. unilateralis-infected ants in comparison to healthy ants and B. bassiana-infected ants. This study provides a comprehensive metabolic approach for understanding the interactions, at the level of host muscles, between healthy ants and fungal parasites.