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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2012 Feb;79(2):504-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2011.01232.x. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Microbial community analysis in the termite gut and fungus comb of Odontotermes formosanus: the implication of Bacillus as mutualists.

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Department of Life Sciences, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung, Taiwan.


The microbial communities harbored in the gut and fungus comb of the fungus-growing termite Odontotermes formosanus were analyzed by both culture-dependent and culture-independent methods to better understand the community structure of their microflora. The microorganisms detected by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), clonal selection, and culture-dependent methods were hypothesized to contribute to cellulose-hemicellulose hydrolysis, gut fermentation, nutrient production, the breakdown of the fungus comb and the initiation of the growth of the symbiotic fungus Termitomyces. The predominant bacterial cultivars isolated by the cultural approach belonged to the genus Bacillus (Phylum Firmicutes). Apart from their function in lignocellulosic degradation, the Bacillus isolates suppressed the growth of the microfungus Trichoderma harzianum (genus Hypocrea), which grew voraciously on the fungus comb in the absence of termites but grew in harmony with the symbiotic fungus Termitomyces. The in vitro studies suggested that the Bacillus sp. may function as mutualists in the termite-gut-fungus-comb microbial ecosystem.

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