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Valbonne, France

Touchard A.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Dauvois M.,VenomeTech | Arguel M.-J.,VenomeTech | Petitclerc F.,French National Center for Scientific Research | And 6 more authors.
Journal of Proteomics | Year: 2014

The rise of integrative taxonomy, a multi-criteria approach used in characterizing species, fosters the development of new tools facilitating species delimitation. Mass spectrometric (MS) analysis of venom peptides from venomous animals has previously been demonstrated to be a valid method for identifying species. Here we aimed to develop a rapid chemotaxonomic tool for identifying ants based on venom peptide mass fingerprinting. The study focused on the biodiversity of ponerine ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae) in French Guiana. Initial experiments optimized the use of automated matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) to determine variations in the mass profiles of ant venoms using several MALDI matrices and additives. Data were then analyzed via a hierarchical cluster analysis to classify the venoms of 17 ant species. In addition, phylogenetic relationships were assessed and were highly correlated with methods using DNA sequencing of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1. By combining a molecular genetics approach with this chemotaxonomic approach, we were able to improve the accuracy of the taxonomic findings to reveal cryptic ant species within species complexes. This chemotaxonomic tool can therefore contribute to more rapid species identification and more accurate taxonomies. Biological significance: This is the first extensive study concerning the peptide analysis of the venom of both Pachycondyla and Odontomachus ants. We studied the venoms of 17 ant species from French Guiana that permitted us to fine-tune the venom analysis of ponerine ants via MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. We explored the peptidomes of crude ant venom and demonstrated that venom peptides can be used in the identification of ant species. In addition, the application of this novel chemotaxonomic method combined with a parallel genetic approach using COI sequencing permitted us to reveal the presence of cryptic ants within both the Pachycondyla apicalis and Pachycondyla stigma species complexes. This adds a new dimension to the search for means of exploiting the enormous biodiversity of venomous ants as a source for novel therapeutic drugs or biopesticides. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Proteomics of non-model organisms. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. Source

Touchard A.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Koh J.M.S.,University of Technology, Sydney | Aili S.R.,University of Technology, Sydney | Dejean A.,French National Center for Scientific Research | And 4 more authors.
Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry | Year: 2015

Rationale Compared with other animal venoms, ant venoms remain little explored. Ants have evolved complex venoms to rapidly immobilize arthropod prey and to protect their colonies from predators and pathogens. Many ants have retained peptide-rich venoms that are similar to those of other arthropod groups. Methods With the goal of conducting a broad and comprehensive survey of ant venom peptide diversity, we investigated the peptide composition of venoms from 82 stinging ant species from nine subfamilies using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS). We also conducted an in-depth investigation of eight venoms using reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC) separation coupled with offline MALDI-TOFMS. Results Our results reveal that the peptide compositions of ant venom peptidomes from both poneroid and formicoid ant clades comprise hundreds of small peptides (<4 kDa), while large peptides (>4 kDa) are also present in the venom of formicoids. Chemical reduction revealed the presence of disulfide-linked peptides in most ant subfamilies, including peptides structured by one, two or three disulfide bonds as well as dimeric peptides reticulated by three disulfide bonds. Conclusions The biochemical complexity of ant venoms, associated with an enormous ecological and taxonomic diversity, suggests that stinging ant venoms constitute a promising source of bioactive molecules that could be exploited in the search for novel drug and biopesticide leads. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Source

Touchard A.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Labriere N.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Roux O.,IRD Montpellier | Petitclerc F.,French National Center for Scientific Research | And 6 more authors.
Toxicon | Year: 2014

We aimed to determine whether the nesting habits of ants have influenced their venom toxicity and composition. We focused on the genus Pseudomyrmex (Pseudomyrmecinae) comprising terrestrial and arboreal species, and, among the latter, plant-ants that are obligate inhabitants of myrmecophytes (i.e., plants sheltering ants in hollow structures). Contrary to our hypothesis, the venom of the ground-dwelling species, Pseudomyrmex termitarius, was as efficacious in paralyzing prey as the venoms of the arboreal and the plant-ant species, Pseudomyrmexpenetrator and Pseudomyrmexgracilis. The lethal potency of P. termitarius venom was equipotent with that of P. gracilis whereas the venom of P. penetrator was less potent. The MALDI-TOF MS analysis of each HPLC fraction of the venoms showed that P. termitarius venom is composed of 87 linear peptides, while both P. gracilis and P. penetrator venoms (23 and 26 peptides, respectively) possess peptides with disulfide bonds. Furthermore, P. penetrator venom contains three hetero- and homodimeric peptides consisting of two short peptidic chains linked together by two interchain disulfide bonds. The large number of peptides in P. termitarius venom is likely related to the large diversity of potential prey plus the antibacterial peptides required for nesting in the ground. Whereas predation involves only the prey and predator, P. penetrator venom has evolved in an environment where trees, defoliating insects, browsing mammals and ants live in equilibrium, likely explaining the diversity of the peptide structures. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Source

Aili S.R.,University of Sydney | Touchard A.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Escoubas P.,VenomeTech | Padula M.P.,University of Sydney | And 4 more authors.
Toxicon | Year: 2014

Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) represent a taxonomically diverse group of arthropods comprising nearly 13,000 extant species. Sixteen ant subfamilies have individuals that possess a stinger and use their venom for purposes such as a defence against predators, competitors and microbial pathogens, for predation, as well as for social communication. They exhibit a range of activities including antimicrobial, haemolytic, cytolytic, paralytic, insecticidal and pain-producing pharmacologies. While ant venoms are known to be rich in alkaloids and hydrocarbons, ant venoms rich in peptides are becoming more common, yet remain understudied. Recent advances in mass spectrometry techniques have begun to reveal the true complexity of ant venom peptide composition. In the few venoms explored thus far, most peptide toxins appear to occur as small polycationic linear toxins, with antibacterial properties and insecticidal activity. Unlike other venomous animals, a number of ant venoms also contain a range of homodimeric and heterodimeric peptides with one or two interchain disulfide bonds possessing pore-forming, allergenic and paralytic actions. However, ant venoms seem to have only a small number of monomeric disulfide-linked peptides. The present review details the structure and pharmacology of known ant venom peptide toxins and their potential as a source of novel bioinsecticides and therapeutic agents. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Source

Touchard A.,French National Institute for Agricultural Research | Touchard A.,University of Champollion | Aili S.R.,University of Technology, Sydney | Fox E.G.P.,South China Agricultural University | And 5 more authors.
Toxins | Year: 2016

Ants (Formicidae) represent a taxonomically diverse group of hymenopterans with over 13,000 extant species, the majority of which inject or spray secretions from a venom gland. The evolutionary success of ants is mostly due to their unique eusociality that has permitted them to develop complex collaborative strategies, partly involving their venom secretions, to defend their nest against predators, microbial pathogens, ant competitors, and to hunt prey. Activities of ant venom include paralytic, cytolytic, haemolytic, allergenic, pro-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial, and pain-producing pharmacologic activities, while non-toxic functions include roles in chemical communication involving trail and sex pheromones, deterrents, and aggregators. While these diverse activities in ant venoms have until now been largely understudied due to the small venom yield from ants, modern analytical and venomic techniques are beginning to reveal the diversity of toxin structure and function. As such, ant venoms are distinct from other venomous animals, not only rich in linear, dimeric and disulfide-bonded peptides and bioactive proteins, but also other volatile and non-volatile compounds such as alkaloids and hydrocarbons. The present review details the unique structures and pharmacologies of known ant venom proteinaceous and alkaloidal toxins and their potential as a source of novel bioinsecticides and therapeutic agents. © 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Source

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