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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 12;8(4):e61126. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061126. Print 2013.

Comparative metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analysis of hindgut paunch microbiota in wood- and dung-feeding higher termites.

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Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA.


Termites effectively feed on many types of lignocellulose assisted by their gut microbial symbionts. To better understand the microbial decomposition of biomass with varied chemical profiles, it is important to determine whether termites harbor different microbial symbionts with specialized functionalities geared toward different feeding regimens. In this study, we compared the microbiota in the hindgut paunch of Amitermes wheeleri collected from cow dung and Nasutitermes corniger feeding on sound wood by 16S rRNA pyrotag, comparative metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analyses. We found that Firmicutes and Spirochaetes were the most abundant phyla in A. wheeleri, in contrast to N. corniger where Spirochaetes and Fibrobacteres dominated. Despite this community divergence, a convergence was observed for functions essential to termite biology including hydrolytic enzymes, homoacetogenesis and cell motility and chemotaxis. Overrepresented functions in A. wheeleri relative to N. corniger microbiota included hemicellulose breakdown and fixed-nitrogen utilization. By contrast, glycoside hydrolases attacking celluloses and nitrogen fixation genes were overrepresented in N. corniger microbiota. These observations are consistent with dietary differences in carbohydrate composition and nutrient contents, but may also reflect the phylogenetic difference between the hosts.

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