Pyrazines from bacteria and ants: convergent chemistry within an ecological niche

Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 7;8(1):2595. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-20953-6.


Ants use pheromones to coordinate their communal activity. Volatile pyrazines, for instance, mediate food resource gathering and alarm behaviors in different ant species. Here we report that leaf-cutter ant-associated bacteria produce a family of pyrazines that includes members previously identified as ant trail and alarm pheromones. We found that L-threonine induces the bacterial production of the trail pheromone pyrazines, which are common for the host leaf-cutter ants. Isotope feeding experiments revealed that L-threonine along with sodium acetate were the biosynthetic precursors of these natural products and a biosynthetic pathway was proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / metabolism*
  • Ecosystem
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Pheromones / chemistry
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Pyrazines / chemistry
  • Pyrazines / metabolism*
  • Serratia marcescens / metabolism*
  • Sodium Acetate / chemistry
  • Sodium Acetate / metabolism
  • Threonine / chemistry
  • Threonine / metabolism


  • Pheromones
  • Pyrazines
  • Threonine
  • Sodium Acetate