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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 May;75(9):2831-40. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02697-08. Epub 2009 Mar 6.

The ultramicrobacterium "Elusimicrobium minutum" gen. nov., sp. nov., the first cultivated representative of the termite group 1 phylum.

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Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Karl von Frisch Strasse, 35043 Marburg, Germany.


Insect intestinal tracts harbor several novel, deep-rooting clades of as-yet-uncultivated bacteria whose biology is typically completely unknown. Here, we report the isolation of the first representative of the termite group 1 (TG1) phylum from sterile-filtered gut homogenates of a humivorous scarab beetle larva. Strain Pei191(T) is a mesophilic, obligately anaerobic ultramicrobacterium with a gram-negative cell envelope. Cells are typically rod shaped, but cultures are pleomorphic in all growth phases (0.3 to 2.5 microm long and 0.17 to 0.3 microm wide). The isolate grows heterotrophically on sugars and ferments D-galactose, D-glucose, D-fructose, D-glucosamine, and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine to acetate, ethanol, hydrogen, and alanine as major products but only if amino acids are present in the medium. PCR-based screening and comparative 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis revealed that strain Pei191(T) belongs to the "intestinal cluster," a lineage of hitherto uncultivated bacteria present in arthropod and mammalian gut systems. It is only distantly related to the previously described so-called "endomicrobia" lineage, which comprises mainly uncultivated endosymbionts of termite gut flagellates. We propose the name "Elusimicrobium minutum" gen. nov., sp. nov. (type strain, Pei191(T) = ATCC BAA-1559(T) = JCM 14958(T)) for the first isolate of this deep-branching lineage and the name "Elusimicrobia" phyl. nov. for the former TG1 phylum.

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