Antimicrobial Compounds in the Volatilome of Social Spider Communities

Alexander Lammers (Corresponding author), Hans Zweers, Tobias Sandfeld, Trine Bilde, Paolina Garbeva, Andreas Schramm, Michael Lalk (Corresponding author)

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Social arthropods such as termites, ants, and bees are among others the most successful animal groups on earth. However, social arthropods face an elevated risk of infections due to the dense colony structure, which facilitates pathogen transmission. An interesting hypothesis is that social arthropods are protected by chemical compounds produced by the arthropods themselves, microbial symbionts, or plants they associate with. Stegodyphus dumicola is an African social spider species, inhabiting communal silk nests. Because of the complex three-dimensional structure of the spider nest antimicrobial volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a promising protection against pathogens, because of their ability to diffuse through air-filled pores. We analyzed the volatilomes of S. dumicola, their nests, and capture webs in three locations in Namibia and assessed their antimicrobial potential. Volatilomes were collected using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) tubes and analyzed using GC/Q-TOF. We showed the presence of 199 VOCs and tentatively identified 53 VOCs. More than 40% of the tentatively identified VOCs are known for their antimicrobial activity. Here, six VOCs were confirmed by analyzing pure compounds namely acetophenone, 1,3-benzothiazole, 1-decanal, 2-decanone, 1-tetradecene, and docosane and for five of these compounds the antimicrobial activity were proven. The nest and web volatilomes had many VOCs in common, whereas the spider volatilomes were more differentiated. Clear differences were identified between the volatilomes from the different sampling sites which is likely justified by differences in the microbiomes of the spiders and nests, the plants, and the different climatic conditions. The results indicate the potential relevance of the volatilomes for the ecological success of S. dumicola.
Original languageEnglish
Article number700693
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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