Background: Fungi are key dietary resources for many animals. Fungi, in consequence, have evolved sophisticated physical and chemical defences for repelling and impairing fungivores. Expression of such defences may entail costs, requiring diversion of energy and nutrients away from fungal growth and reproduction. Inducible resistance that is mounted after attack by fungivores may allow fungi to circumvent the potential costs of defence when not needed. However, no information exists on whether fungi display inducible resistance. We combined organism and fungal gene expression approaches to investigate whether fungivory induces resistance in fungi.
Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we show that grazing by larval fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, induces resistance in the filamentous mould, Aspergillus nidulans, to subsequent feeding by larvae of the same insect. Larval grazing triggered the expression of various putative fungal resistance genes, including the secondary metabolite master regulator gene laeA. Compared to the severe pathological effects of wild type A. nidulans, which led to 100% insect mortality, larval feeding on a laeA loss-of-function mutant resulted in normal insect development. Whereas the wild type fungus recovered from larval grazing, larvae eradicated the chemically deficient mutant. In contrast, mutualistic dietary yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, reached higher population densities when exposed to Drosophila larval feeding.
Conclusions/Significance: Our study presents novel evidence that insect grazing is capable of inducing resistance to further grazing in a filamentous fungus. This phenotypic shift in resistance to fungivory is accompanied by changes in the expression of genes involved in signal transduction, epigenetic regulation and secondary metabolite biosynthesis pathways. Depending on reciprocal insect-fungus fitness consequences, fungi may be selected for inducible resistance to maintain high fitness in fungivore-rich habitats. Induced fungal defence responses thus need to be included if we wish to have a complete conception of animal-fungus co-evolution, fungal gene regulation, and multitrophic interactions.
- SECONDARY METABOLISM
- EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION
- FILAMENTOUS FUNGI
- PCR DATA