, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 45–54 | Cite as

Reaction of microorganisms to the digestive fluid of earthworms

  • N. V. Khomyakov
  • S. A. Kharin
  • T. Yu. Nechitailo
  • P. N. Golyshin
  • A. V. Kurakov
  • B. A. ByzovEmail author
  • D. G. Zvyagintsev
Experimental Articles


The reaction of soil bacteria and fungi to the digestive fluid of the earthworm Aporrectodea caliginosa was studied. The fluid was obtained by centrifugation of the native enzymes of the digestive tract. The inhibition of growth of certain bacteria, spores, and fungal hyphae under the effect of extracts from the anterior and middle sections of the digestive tract of A. caliginosa was discovered for the first time. In bacteria, microcolony formation was inhibited as early as 20–30 s after the application of the gut extracts, which may indicate the nonenzymatic nature of the effect. The digestive fluid exhibited the same microbicidal activity whether the earthworms were feeding on soil or sterile sand. This indicates that the microbicidal agents are formed within the earthworm’s body, rather than by soil microorganisms. The effect of the digestive fluid from the anterior and middle divisions is selective in relation to different microorganisms. Of 42 strains of soil bacteria, seven were susceptible to the microbicidal action of the fluid (Alcaligenes faecalis 345-1, Microbacterium sp. 423-1, Arthrobacter sp. 430-1, Bacillus megaterium 401-1, B. megaterium 413-1, Kluyvera ascorbata 301-1, Pseudomonas reactans 387-2). The remaining bacteria did not die in the digestive fluid. Of 13 micromycetes, the digestive fluid inhibited spore germination in Aspergillus terreus and Paecilomyces lilacinus and the growth of hyphae in Trichoderma harzianum and Penicillium decumbens. The digestive fluid stimulated spore germination in Alternaria alternata and the growth of hyphae in Penicillium chrysogenum. The reaction of the remaining micromycetes was neutral. The gut fluid from the posterior division of the abdominal tract did not possess microbicidal activity. No relation was found between the reaction of microorganisms to the effects of the digestive fluid and the taxonomic position of the microorganisms. The effects revealed are similar to those shown earlier for millipedes and wood lice in the following parameters: quick action of the digestive fluid on microorganisms, and the selectivity of the action on microorganisms revealed at the strain level. The selective effect of the digestive gut fluid of the earthworms on soil microorganisms is important for animal feeding, maintaining the homeostasis of the gut microbial community, and the formation of microbial communities in soils.

Key words

bacteria fungi earthworms digestive fluid microbicidal activity 


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Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. V. Khomyakov
    • 1
  • S. A. Kharin
    • 1
  • T. Yu. Nechitailo
    • 2
  • P. N. Golyshin
    • 2
  • A. V. Kurakov
    • 3
  • B. A. Byzov
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. G. Zvyagintsev
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Soil BiologyMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.National Biotechnology CenterBraunschweigGermany
  3. 3.International Biotechnology CenterMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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