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Int Microbiol. 2012 Sep;15(3):121-30.

Isolation and characterization of aerobic microorganisms with cellulolytic activity in the gut of endogeic earthworms.

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Department of Agriculture, Yamaguchi University, Yoshida, Yamaguchi, Japan.


The ability of earthworms to decompose lignocellulose involves the assistance of microorganisms in their digestive system. While many studies have revealed a diverse microbiota in the earthworm gut, including aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms, it remains unclear which of these species contribute to lignocellulose digestion. In this study, aerobic microorganisms with cellulolytic activity isolated from the gut of two endogeic earthworms, Amynthas heteropoda (Megascolecidae) and Eisenia fetida (Lumbricidae) were isolated by solid culture of gut homogenates using filter paper as a carbon source. A total of 48 strains, including four bacterial and four fungal genera, were isolated from two earthworm species. Characterization of these strains using enzyme assays showed that the most representative ones had exocellulase and xylanase activities, while some had weak laccase activity. These findings suggest that earthworms digest lignocellulose by exploiting microbial exocellulase and xylanase besides their own endocellulase. Phylogenetic analysis showed that among the cellulolytic isolates in both earthworm species Burkholderia and Chaetomium were the dominant bacterial and fungal members.

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