Dr. Laura Flórez

Illustration

Dr. Laura Victoria Flórez

Evolutionary Ecology
Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolution
Hanns-Dieter-Hüsch-Weg 15
55128 Mainz, Germany

phone: +49 - (0) 6131 - 39 23572
fax: +49 - (0) 6131 - 39 23731

laflorez@uni-mainz.de

 

Research Project and Interests

I am interested in the ecology and evolution of insect-bacteria symbioses, particularly in those with a defensive basis. My current research is focused in the symbiosis between beetles of the subfamily Lagriinae and Burkholderia gladioli (β-proteobacteria). These bacteria, which belong to a genus with remarkable metabolic versatility, can inhibit the growth of fungi on the host eggs by producing bioactive secondary metabolites. We are investigating the mechanistic basis of symbiont-mediated protection in these beetles, as well as the implications of symbiont strain diversity for the association. How does the presence of coinfecting symbiotic strains affect the ecology of defense, and how is the symbiosis with multiple closely related partners maintained in the long-run? Interestingly, some B. gladioli strains can also be plant pathogenic, and thus we are also interested in the evolution and ecology of the tripartite interaction between the bacteria, the beetle and the insect’s food plant.

Lagria villosa: adult on a soybean plant and an egg clutch from the same species laid in soil

Left: 3D reconstruction of the symbiont-containing structures of a Lagria hirta adult female (red) surrounding the oviduct (blue). Reconstruction by Benjamin Weiss.

Right: Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) on a cross section of an accessory gland (indicated on the 3D reconstruction) harboring extracellular B. gladioli symbionts. Scale bar: 50 µm.