Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 8, pp 1311–1325

Toward the functional analysis of uncultivable, symbiotic microorganisms in the termite gut

Multi-author review

DOI: 10.1007/s00018-011-0648-z

Cite this article as:
Hongoh, Y. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (2011) 68: 1311. doi:10.1007/s00018-011-0648-z


Termites thrive on dead plant matters with the aid of microorganisms resident in their gut. The gut microbiota comprises protists (single-celled eukaryotes), bacteria, and archaea, most of which are unique to the termite gut ecosystem. Although this symbiosis has long been intriguing researchers of both basic and applied sciences, its detailed mechanism remains unclear due to the enormous complexity and the unculturability of the microbiota. In the effort to overcome the difficulty, recent advances in omics, such as metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics have gradually unveiled the black box of this symbiotic system. Genomics targeting a single species of the unculturable microbial members has also provided a great progress in the understanding of the symbiotic interrelationships among the gut microorganisms. In this review, the symbiotic system organized by wood-feeding termites and their gut microorganisms is outlined, focusing on the recent achievement in omics studies of this multilayered symbiotic system.


Gut bacteriaInsectLignocelluloseNitrogen fixationWhole genome amplification

Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Bioscience and BiotechnologyTokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan