Microbial Ecology

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 282–294 | Cite as

Genomic Analysis Reveals Multiple [FeFe] Hydrogenases and Hydrogen Sensors Encoded by Treponemes from the H2-Rich Termite Gut

  • Nicholas R. Ballor
  • Ian Paulsen
  • Jared R. Leadbetter
Genes and Genomes


We have completed a bioinformatic analysis of the hydrogenases encoded in the genomes of three termite gut treponeme isolates: hydrogenotrophic, homoacetogenic Treponema primitia strains ZAS-1 and ZAS-2, and the hydrogen-producing, sugar-fermenting Treponema azotonutricium ZAS-9. H2 is an important free intermediate in the breakdown of wood by termite gut microbial communities, reaching concentrations in some species exceeding those measured for any other biological system. The spirochetes encoded 4, 8, and 5 [FeFe] hydrogenase-like proteins, identified by their H domains, respectively, but no other recognizable hydrogenases. The [FeFe] hydrogenases represented many sequence families previously proposed in an analysis of termite gut metagenomic data. Each strain encoded both putative [FeFe] hydrogenase enzymes and evolutionarily related hydrogen sensor/transducer proteins likely involved in phosphorelay or methylation pathways, and possibly even chemotaxis. A new family of [FeFe] hydrogenases (FDH-Linked) is proposed that may form a multimeric complex with formate dehydrogenase to provide reducing equivalents for reductive acetogenesis in T. primitia. The many and diverse [FeFe] hydrogenase-like proteins encoded within the sequenced genomes of the termite gut treponemes has enabled the discovery of a putative new class of [FeFe] hydrogenase proteins potentially involved in acetogenesis and furthered present understanding of many families, including sensory, of H domain proteins beyond what was possible through the use of fragmentary termite gut metagenome sequence data alone, from which they were initially defined.

Supplementary material

248_2011_9922_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (289 kb)
Table S1Primer sequences used in this study (PDF 288 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas R. Ballor
    • 1
  • Ian Paulsen
    • 3
  • Jared R. Leadbetter
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Biochemistry & Molecular BiophysicsMailcode 138-78, California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  2. 2.The Ronald & Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental ScienceMailcode 138-78, California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry & Biomolecular SciencesMacquarie University SydneySydneyAustralia

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