story to find out more.
Australian relatives of these American cicadas
play host to fungi recently found to produce potent antimicrobial compounds.
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Fungi Found on Cicadas May Benefit Science
By Luis Pons
February 21, 2006
Some cicadas harbor a fungus that
has biomedical potential, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Cornell University scientists in Ithaca,
N.Y. They studied Cordyceps heteropoda, a fungus that grows on and
infects some species of cicadas.
Gibson of ARS Plant Protection Research Unit (PPRU)
and Cornell research associate Stuart Krasnoff found peptides within C.
heteropoda that give it antimicrobial and immunosuppressant properties.
They also found that the fungus produces myriocin, a compound being
investigated by other scientists for potent immunosuppressant activity that
could be a key to preventing post-transplant organ rejection in humans.
The peptides are made up of unusual amino acids, one of which causes the
peptide to coil into a helical structure, according to Gibson. This, she added,
may be useful for engineering molecules, because most drugs and pesticides are
modeled after the chemical structures of natural products.
Most Americans likely base their recollection of cicadas on their experience
with Brood X of Magicicada septendecimthe. Thats the species that
emerges every 17 years, mostly in eastern parts of the nation, to pile atop one
another on sidewalks, bump into windows and people, and collect in storm
gutters as they emerge for their mating cycle.
The fungus studied here, however, was taken from Cicadetta puer, an
annual cicada that appears from October to February in eastern Australia. It
had been placed in PPRUs
Entomopathogenic Fungi in 1985.
Krasnoff and Gibson came across this C. heteropoda isolate during a
molecular screening program started six years ago thats aimed at
developing a diverse core collection for identifying novel chemistries.
The recent findings have been described in the Journal of Natural
more about this research in the February 2006 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.