Insects and their antibiotic-producing bacteria

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Many, if not all, plants and animals form mutually beneficial symbioses (mutualisms) with microbes and a subset of these mutualisms are defensive, in which the host provides food and housing in return for defence against disease. These symbioses typically involve antibiotic-producing bacteria, the best known of which are filamentous actinomycetes in the genera Streptomyces and Pseudonocardia and unicellular species in the genus Pseudomonas. Such mutualisms are likely to be widespread in nature, but they are best characterised in insects, which provide experimentally tractable models for studying symbiosis and microbiome formation because they typically host less complex microbial communities. Here, we examine the mutualisms formed between insects and antibiotic-producing bacteria using well-characterised examples, including digger wasps and their endosymbiotic Streptomyces species, attine ants and their mutualist Pseudonocardia species and Pae230008???????ederus beetles with their pederin-producing Pseudomonas species. We also discuss how searching such symbiotic niches can give insights into the evolution and functions of microbial specialised metabolites and provide new platforms for antibiotic discovery.