Laboratory of Entomopathogenic Nematodes
The Laboratory of Entomopathogenic Nematodes studies systematics, phylogeny and ecology of entomopathogenic, insect-parasitic and molluscoparasitic nematodes with a special emphasis on their bacterial symbionts and associates. We also explore options for use of selected nematodes as biological control and develop the methods of nematode mass rearing for the large-scale applications. Another line focuses on the use of molecular markers for evolutionary aspects of biology and molecular ecology in broad range of invertebrate organisms.
Current research projects
Nematode diversity and phylogeny
Within this long-term project, we focus on studying diversity and phylogeny of entomopathogenic and molluscoparasitic nematodes and their bacterial associates. Our studies in EPN and MPN systematics in the last years significantly contributed to our understanding of their diversity by discovering of 5 novel EPN species, and 5 MPN species, with important redescription of Alloionema appendiculatum. We found that the most important genetic marker in EPN systematics, the Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) displays larger variability within nematode individuals than between some established steinernematid species. Our results thus significantly affected the systematics and phylogenetic reconstructions of steinernematid EPN. Recently, we documented co-cladogenesis of bacterial symbiont Xenorhabdus indica and its steinernematid nematode hosts (Nermuť et al., 2015; Půža et al., 2015; Bhat et al. 2019).
Within this long-term project we study primarily the possibilities of the use of entomopathogenic and molluscoparasitic nematodes in biocontrol. Recently, we assessed the possibility of the use of entomopathogenic nematodes for the control of the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robinii. This study has shown that EPNs can invade and kill bulb mite but the mortality is not sufficient for the use of EPNs against these pests. In similar way and with similar results we investigated whether the slug parasitic nematode Alloionema appendiculatum could be used in the control of noxious slugs Arion spp. Presently we investigate the possibility of EPN use against Colorado potato beetle and bark beetles. Within this project we also identified the method of DNA extraction for taxonomic identification of early developmental stages of forensically important flies (Calliphoridae and Sarcophagidae). It was adopted for the routine work at the Department of forensics of the Institute of Criminalistics, Prague. Important publications: Nermuť et al, 2019a; Nermuť et al. 2019b; Olekšáková et al., 2018.
We are strongly interested in various interactions between parasitic nematodes and other organisms. For this reasonwerecently collaborated on the development of the real-time qPCR method that enables tracing entomopathogenic nematode (EPN) ecology, distribution and interactions with other organisms. We showed that competition for insect cadavers exists between entomopathogenic and free-living nematodes and that some facultatively parasitic nematodes act as facultative kleptoparasites which can readily explain the low EPN numbers in field samples.Also a qPCR-based method was developed for the detection of molluscoparasitic nematodes (MPN) in soil and host tissues. The method represents a new tool to unravel the ecology of nematode-slug complexes. More recently, we focused on the interaction of EPNs and entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) where we revealed that EPNs may act as vectors for EPF andenhance the efficiency of fungal dispersal. Important publications: Campos-Herrera et al., 2015; Campos-Herrera et al., 2016; Jafffuel et al., 2019; Nermuť et al. 2020.