Analysis of Extensive [FeFe] Hydrogenase Gene Diversity Within the Gut Microbiota of Insects Representing Five Families of Dictyoptera
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- Ballor, N.R. & Leadbetter, J.R. Microb Ecol (2012) 63: 586. doi:10.1007/s00248-011-9941-5
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We have designed and utilized degenerate primers in the phylogenetic analysis of [FeFe] hydrogenase gene diversity in the gut ecosystems of roaches and lower termites. 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 primers designed target with specificity the largest group of enzymatic H domain proteins previously identified in a termite gut metagenome. “Family 3” hydrogenase sequences were amplified from the guts of lower termites, Incisitermes minor, Zootermopsis nevadensis, and Reticulitermes hesperus, and two roaches, Cryptocercus punctulatus and Periplaneta americana. Subsequent analyses revealed that all termite and Cryptocercus sequences were phylogenetically distinct from non-termite-associated hydrogenases available from public databases. The abundance of unique sequence operational taxonomic units (as many as 21 from each species) underscores the previously demonstrated physiological importance of H2 to the gut ecosystems of these wood-feeding insects. The diversity of sequences observed might be reflective of multiple niches that the enzymes have been evolved to accommodate. Sequences cloned from Cryptocercus and the lower termite samples, all of which are wood feeding insects, clustered closely with one another in phylogenetic analyses to the exclusion of alleles from P. americana, an omnivorous cockroach, also cloned during this study. We present primers targeting a family of termite gut [FeFe] hydrogenases and provide results that are consistent with a pivotal role for hydrogen in the termite gut ecosystem and point toward unique evolutionary adaptations to the gut ecosystem.