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Science. 1999 Jan 29;283(5402):686-9.

Acetogenesis from H2 plus CO2 by spirochetes from termite guts.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1101, USA.


Pure cultures of termite gut spirochetes were obtained and were shown to catalyze the synthesis of acetate from H2 plus CO2. The 16S ribosomal DNA sequences of two strains were 98 percent similar and were affiliated with those of the genus Treponema. However, neither was closely related to any known treponeme. These findings imply an important role for spirochetes in termite nutrition, help to reconcile the dominance of acetogenesis over methanogenesis as an H2 sink in termite hindguts, suggest that the motility of termite gut protozoa by means of attached spirochetes may be based on interspecies H2 transfer, and underscore the importance of termites as a rich reservoir of novel microbial diversity.

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