Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 97, Issue 18, pp 7943–7962 | Cite as

The cellulolytic system of the termite gut

  • Helmut König
  • Li Li
  • Jürgen Fröhlich


The demand for the usage of natural renewable polymeric material is increasing in order to satisfy the future needs for energy and chemical precursors. Important steps in the hydrolysis of polymeric material and bioconversion can be performed by microorganisms. Over about 150 million years, termites have optimized their intestinal polysaccharide-degrading symbiosis. In the ecosystem of the “termite gut,” polysaccharides are degraded from lignocellulose, such as cellulose and hemicelluloses, in 1 day, while lignin is only weakly attacked. The understanding of the principles of cellulose degradation in this natural polymer-degrading ecosystem could be helpful for the improvement of the biotechnological hydrolysis and conversion of cellulose, e.g., in the case of biogas production from natural renewable plant material in biogas plants. This review focuses on the present knowledge of the cellulose degradation in the termite gut.


Cellulose Cellulases Glycolytic enzymes Termites Gut microbiota 



We thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Environment Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg-University (Mainz) and the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection via Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR) e.V. for financial support.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Microbiology and Wine ResearchJohannes Gutenberg University of MainzMainzGermany

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