Diversity, Structure, and Evolution of the Termite Gut Microbial Community
The gut of termites is densely populated with microbial symbionts that aid in the efficient digestion of recalcitrant lignocellulose. Despite the formidable unculturability of the resident members, ribosomal RNA-based molecular analyses and other comprehensive and elaborate culture-independent studies of molecular microbial ecology in the past decade have gradually unveiled the complex nature of the intestinal microbiota. The microbial community, whose structure and spatial distribution seems to be characteristic for a termite species (but may differ between genera), consists of mostly novel lineages that seem to have co-evolved or converged with their particular host. A prominent feature of lower termites is the tripartite symbiosis with a variety of flagellated protists that are themselves associated with diverse prokaryotes. Here, the complete genome sequences of several bacterial endosymbionts have disclosed their functional interactions with their host flagellates, but the highly structured and coevolving nature of these associations requires more emphasis in future studies.
We thank Karen A. Brune for editing an earlier version of the manuscript.
- Abe T, Bignell DE, Higashi M (eds) (2000) Termites: evolution, sociality, symbiosis, ecology. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
- Brugerolle G, Patterson DJ (2001) Ultrastructure of Joenina pulchella Grassi, 1917 (Protista, Parabasalia), a reassessment of evolutionary trends in the parabasalids, and a new order Cristamonadida for devescovinid, calonymphid and lophomonad flagellates. Org Divers Evol 1:147–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Brune A, Stingl U (2005) Prokaryotic symbionts of termite gut flagellates: phylogenetic and metabolic implications of a tripartite symbiosis. In: Overmann J (ed) Molecular basis of symbiosis. Springer, Berlin, pp 39–60Google Scholar
- Hongoh Y, Deevong P, Hattori S et al (2006a) Phylogenetic diversity, localization, and cell morphologies of members of the candidate phylum TG3 and a subphylum in the phylum Fibrobacteres, recently discovered bacterial groups dominant in termite guts. Appl Environ Microbiol 72:6780–6788PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hongoh Y, Ohkuma M (2010) Termite gut flagellates and their methanogenic and eubacterial symbionts. In: Hackstein JHP (ed) Microbiology monographs: (endo) symbiotic methanogenic archaea. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, in pressGoogle Scholar
- Ohkuma M (2002) Symbiosis in the termite gut: culture-independent molecular approaches. In: Seckbach J (ed) Symbiosis: mechanisms and model systems. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 715–730Google Scholar
- Strassert JFH, Desai MS, Radek R, Brune A (2010) Identification and localization of the multiple bacterial symbionts of the termite gut flagellate Joenia annectens. Microbiology 156:2068–2079Google Scholar