1887

Abstract

The hindguts of wood-feeding termites are the sites of intense, CO-reductive acetogenesis. This activity profoundly influences host nutrition and methane emissions. Homoacetogens previously isolated from diverse termites comprised novel taxa belonging to two distinct bacterial phyla, and . Little else is known about either the diversity or abundance of homoacetogenic species present in any given termite or the genetic details underlying CO-reductive acetogenesis by . A key enzyme of CO-reductive acetogenesis is formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase (FTHFS). A previously designed primer set was used to amplify FTHFS genes from three isolated termite-gut spirochaetes. Sequencing DNA flanking the FTHFS gene of strain ZAS-2 revealed genes encoding two acetogenesis-related enzymes, methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase and methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase. Although termite-gut spirochaetes are only distantly related to clostridia at the ribosomal level, their tetrahydrofolate-dependent enzymes appear to be closely related. In contrast, homologous proteins identified in the non-homoacetogenic oral spirochaete were only distantly related to those from clostridia and the termite-gut treponemes. Having demonstrated their utility with spirochaete pure cultures, the FTHFS primers were used to construct a 91-clone library from the termite-gut community DNA. From this, 19 DNA and eight amino acid FTHFS types were identified. Over 75 % of the retrieved clones formed a novel, coherent cluster with the FTHFS homologues obtained from the termite-gut treponemes. Thus, FTHFS gene diversity in the gut of the termite appears to be dominated by spirochaetes. The homoacetogenic capacity of termite-gut spirochaetes may have been acquired via lateral gene transfer from clostridia.

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2003-09-01
2020-04-02
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