The role of corporate immunity in the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum

Corporate and individual immunity - understanding their relationship in a non-social insect, Tribolium castaneum.

Tribolium beetles excrete Quinones into their flour environment. Quinones show broad antimicrobial activity, and therefore, can be considered as an "external" immune defence. Previously I could demonstrate that the production of Quinones is traded-off with the internally acting innate immune system, and that the excretion of Quinones comes at the cost of decreased larval survival. Based on these findings, the proposed project aims at an in-depth analysis of the evolution and function of external immunity. I will address four main questions: (i) Does Quinone excretion enhance beetle fitness through manipulation of microbial diversity in the flour and the beetle gut? (ii) What are the cause and consequences of the trade-offs between external immunity and other aspects of immunity? (iii) How is Quinone production regulated? (iv) Does external immunity represent a true corporate trait that benefits a group of unrelated individuals? This project is expected to shed new light onto the evolution of immune defence.

Involved people: Gerrit Joop, Andreas Mitschke, Charlotte Rafaluk, Hinrich Schulenburg

Collaborators: Philip Rosenstiel (Kiel, Germany), Stanislav Gorb (Kiel, Germany), Arne Traulsen (MPI Plön, Germany) and Joachim Kurtz (Münster, Germany)

Funding: VW foundation

For an interview (in German), click here