Termite digestive-tract microorganisms: A resource to fuel the future

Aug 28, 2013
Termite digestive-tract microorganisms: a resource to fuel the future
What's going on in there? Representation of the D. colotermitum strain TAV2 and various classes of other microorganisms at work in the termite hindgut.

With increasing attention toward generating cost-effective biochemical conversion methods for producing biofuels, it helps to follow the leaders who have perfected the process. The mere Reticulitermes flavipes, or eastern subterranean termite, a famous feaster of lignocellulosic plant materials (e.g., decaying wood), relies on various microbial symbionts within its intestinal tract, such as Diplosphaera colotermitum TAV2 in the hindgut, to transform its carbon-rich diet into useable nutrition—its very own biofuel. However, there is a gap in understanding why TAV2, a member of the bacteria phylum Verrucomicrobia, is so at home in the seemingly inhospitable termite hindgut. Like other microbes in the termite gut, TAV2 can live in environments with much less oxygen than the 20% O2 concentration found in the atmosphere.

Scientists took aim at this trait and used comprehensive and integrative transcriptomic and proteomic approaches to identify genes and proteins being expressed by TAV2 in response to different O2 concentrations, as well as to build an experimentally tested metabolic map for TAV2 and provide a conceptual model of its functional role in the termite hindgut. This first integrated omics effort toward understanding the ecological role of a Verrucomicrobia isolate (in this case, TAV2) employed a variety of resources, including EMSL's accurate mass tag (AMT) approach, to uncover the novel ecological functions that TAV2 enables during lignocellulosic degradation within the termite gut.

Their work revealed that TAV2 can contribute to the metabolism of the termite hindgut microbial community via , amino-acid production, polysaccharide degradation, and O2 consumption. They also found that when TAV2 cells are maintained at , typical in parts of the termite hindgut, genes responsible for energy production and conversion, carbohydrate transport and metabolism, and replication and recombination are upregulated.

Explore further: New studies bring scientists closer to combating dangerous unstable proteins

More information: Isanapong J, et al. 2013. Development of an ecophysiological model for Diplosphaera colotermitum TAV2, a termite hindgut Verrucomicrobium, The ISME Journal 7(9):1803–1813. DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2013.74.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

It Takes 'Guts' to Explore the Next Proteomics Frontier

Jul 16, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- In the quest to find new sources of biofuel, researchers are studying one of the most efficient bioreactors on earth: the termite. The same insect that causes distress to homeowners with its ...

When viruses infect bacteria

Jun 30, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Viruses are the most abundant parasites on Earth. Well known viruses, such as the flu virus, attack human hosts, while viruses such as the tobacco mosaic virus infect plant hosts.

Biologists bore into Canadian termite invasion

Dec 20, 2012

Scientists at Western University have discovered why termites wreak havoc on megacities like Toronto and Paris and how new findings may lead to possible pest controls.  

Recommended for you

YEATS protein potential therapeutic target for cancer

Oct 23, 2014

Federal Express and UPS are no match for the human body when it comes to distribution. There exists in cancer biology an impressive packaging and delivery system that influences whether your body will develop cancer or not.

Precise and programmable biological circuits

Oct 23, 2014

A team led by ETH professor Yaakov Benenson has developed several new components for biological circuits. These components are key building blocks for constructing precisely functioning and programmable bio-computers.

User comments : 0