Ophiocordyceps-ant interactions as an integrative model to understand the molecular basis of parasitic behavioral manipulation.


University of Central Florida, College of Sciences, Biology Department, 4110 Libra Drive, 32816 Orlando, FL, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


Ophiocordyceps-infected ants display a substrate biting behavior that aids parasite transmission. World-wide research into this behavioral manipulation has led to new fungal species descriptions, annotated genomes, and detailed field observations. Experimentally tractable modified ant behaviors and the development of infection techniques have enabled the quest for the molecular basis of this phenomenon. Behavioral studies followed by transcriptomics, metabolomics and three-dimensional electron microscopy have led to novel mechanistic hypotheses. This multidisciplinary work represents a big leap forward. However, definitive answers have yet to be obtained. A comprehensive understanding hinges on continued integrative efforts that reveal the precise natural history, behavioral ecology and evolutionary relationships between Ophiocordyceps-ant systems, and the true functions and involvement of genes and metabolites in behavioral manipulation.