Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Ethan Van Arnam

Reader 2

Brisa Hurlocker

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2018 Krithika Rao


In response to the growing rates of antibiotic resistance in human bacterial pathogens, this study explores the natural products involved in the defensive symbiosis between actinobacteria and fungus-growing ants to uncover new potential antibiotics. This study also seeks to understand the function of natural antibiotics in their ecological contexts, especially those involved in defensive symbioses. Defensive symbiosis can be a beneficial platform for discovering useful antibiotics, because antibiotics in these relationships must be able to selectively inhibit enemies without harming hosts, and are therefore likely more specific and less toxic. Pseudonocardia sp. associated with Trachymyrmex septentrionalis ants demonstrated antibiotic activity against several gram-positive bacteria. Therefore, the natural products from this strain were extracted and purified through activity-guided fractionation. Using mass spectrometry, the structure of the active compound was elucidated as GE37468A, an antibiotic that has been previously identified from Streptomyces sp. ATCC 55365 from Italy. This compound had never before been characterized in a defensive symbiosis, which demonstrates the use of the molecule in a new context. Antibiotic GE37468A is a thiopeptide, which is a group of antibiotics that has previously demonstrated strong activity against many gram-positive bacteria, including bacterial human pathogens. Due to its potency against dangerous bacteria and its likely low toxicity, this antibiotic could therefore hold potential pharmacological uses.