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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1999 Feb 15;171(2):147-53.

Phylogenetic relationships of symbiotic methanogens in diverse termites.

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Microbiology Laboratory, Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Saitama, Japan.


Termites harbor symbiotic microorganisms in their gut which emit methane. The phylogeny of the termite methanogens was inferred without cultivation based on nucleotide sequences of PCR-amplified 16S ribosomal RNA genes. Seven methanogen sequences from four termite species were newly isolated, and together with those previously published, these sequences were phylogenetically compared. The termite methanogen sequences were divided into three clusters. Two clusters of sequences, derived from the gut DNA of so-called higher termites, were related to methanogens in the orders Methanosarcinales or Methanomicrobiales. All of the sequences in the case of lower termites were closely related to the genus Methanobrevibacter. However, most of the termite symbionts were found to be distinct from known methanogens. They are not dispersed among diverse methanogen species, but rather formed unique lineages in the phylogenetic trees.

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