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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Nov;73(21):6829-41. Epub 2007 Sep 7.

Physiological ecology of Stenoxybacter acetivorans, an obligate microaerophile in termite guts.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824-4320, USA.


Stenoxybacter acetivorans is a newly described, obligately microaerophilic beta-proteobacterium that is abundant in the acetate-rich hindgut of Reticulitermes. Here we tested the hypotheses that cells are located in the hypoxic, peripheral region of Reticulitermes flavipes hindguts and use acetate to fuel their O(2)-consuming respiratory activity in situ. Physical fractionation of R. flavipes guts, followed by limited-cycle PCR with S. acetivorans-specific 16S rRNA gene primers, indicated that cells of this organism were indeed located primarily among the microbiota colonizing the hindgut wall. Likewise, reverse transcriptase PCR of hindgut RNA revealed S. acetivorans-specific transcripts for acetate-activating enzymes that were also found in cell extracts (acetate kinase and phosphotransacetylase), as well as transcripts of ccoN, which encodes the O(2)-reducing subunit of high-affinity cbb(3)-type cytochrome oxidases. However, S. acetivorans strains did not possess typical enzymes of the glyoxylate cycle (isocitrate lyase and malate synthase A), suggesting that they may use an alternate pathway to replenish tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates or they obtain such compounds (or their precursors) in situ. Respirometric measurements indicated that much of the O(2) consumption by R. flavipes worker larvae was attributable to their guts, and the potential contribution of S. acetivorans to O(2) consumption by extracted guts was about 0.2%, a value similar to that obtained for other hindgut bacteria examined. Similar measurements obtained with guts of larvae prefed diets to disrupt major members of the hindgut microbiota implied that most of the O(2) consumption observed with extracted guts was attributable to protozoans, a group of microbes long thought to be "strict anaerobes."

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