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Formyltetrahydrofolate Synthetase Gene Diversity in the Guts of Higher Termites with Different Diets and Lifestyles

Ottesen, Elizabeth A. and Leadbetter, Jared R. (2011) Formyltetrahydrofolate Synthetase Gene Diversity in the Guts of Higher Termites with Different Diets and Lifestyles. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 77 (10). pp. 3461-3467. ISSN 0099-2240. PMCID PMC3126463.

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In this study, we examine gene diversity for formyl-tetrahydrofolate synthetase (FTHFS), a key enzyme in homoacetogenesis, recovered from the gut microbiota of six species of higher termites. The "higher" termites (family Termitidae), which represent the majority of extant termite species and genera, engage in a broader diversity of feeding and nesting styles than the "lower" termites. Previous studies of termite gut homoacetogenesis have focused on wood-feeding lower termites, from which the preponderance of FTHFS sequences recovered were related to those from acetogenic treponemes. While sequences belonging to this group were present in the guts of all six higher termites examined, treponeme-like FTHFS sequences represented the majority of recovered sequences in only two species (a wood-feeding Nasutitermes sp. and a palm-feeding Microcerotermes sp.). The remaining four termite species analyzed (a Gnathamitermes sp. and two Amitermes spp. that were recovered from subterranean nests with indeterminate feeding strategies and a litter-feeding Rhynchotermes sp.) yielded novel FTHFS clades not observed in lower termites. These termites yielded two distinct clusters of probable purinolytic Firmicutes and a large group of potential homoacetogens related to sequences previously recovered from the guts of omnivorous cockroaches. These findings suggest that the gut environments of different higher termite species may select for different groups of homoacetogens, with some species hosting treponeme-dominated homoacetogen populations similar to those of wood-feeding, lower termites while others host Firmicutes-dominated communities more similar to those of omnivorous cockroaches.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Leadbetter, Jared R.0000-0002-7033-0844
Additional Information:© 2011 American Society for Microbiology. Received 12 November 2010; Accepted 17 March 2011. Published ahead of print on 25 March 2011. This research was supported by the NIH (Caltech subcontract from R01-HG002644 and NIH/NRSA Training Grant for Biology 5T32GM07616), the DOE (DE-FG02-07ER64484), and the NSF (EF-0523267). We are grateful to Myriam Hernández, Catalina Murillo, Luis G. Acosta, and Giselle Tamayo at Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica, for help in locating and identifying termite nests in Costa Rica and Brian Green, Cathy Chang, and Eric J. Mathur, formerly of Verenium, Inc., for help in gaining permission to access sites and collect termites in Costa Rica. Specimens from Joshua Tree National Park were collected under a National Park Service research permit (JOTR-2008-SCI-0002).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NIH Predoctoral Fellowship5T32GM07616
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-FG02-07ER64484
Issue or Number:10
PubMed Central ID:PMC3126463
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110519-113750746
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:23733
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:20 May 2011 14:39
Last Modified:24 Apr 2020 22:32

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