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Comparative Study
, 3 (3), 336-9

Hidden Cellulases in Termites: Revision of an Old Hypothesis

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Comparative Study

Hidden Cellulases in Termites: Revision of an Old Hypothesis

Gaku Tokuda et al. Biol Lett.

Abstract

The intestinal flagellates of termites produce cellulases that contribute to cellulose digestion of their host termites. However, 75% of all termite species do not harbour the cellulolytic flagellates; the endogenous cellulase secreted from the midgut tissue has been considered a sole source of cellulases in these termites. Using the xylophagous flagellate-free termites Nasutitermes takasagoensis and Nasutitermes walkeri, we successfully solubilized cellulases present in the hindgut pellets. Zymograms showed that the hindguts of these termites possessed several cellulases and contained up to 59% cellulase activity against crystalline cellulose when compared with the midgut. Antibiotic treatment administered to N. takasagoensis significantly reduced cellulase activity in the hindgut, suggesting that these cellulases were produced by symbiotic bacteria.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
(a) Zymograms of cellulases present in the midguts and the hindguts of N. takasagoensis and N. walkeri. The same samples were analysed by (i) SDS-PAGE and (ii) native-PAGE. Winding lines observed in lanes of pellet extracts on the native gel are non-specific bands caused by the detergent reagent. Several cellulases detected in the pellet extracts of the hindguts on SDS-PAGE were changed in mobility on native-PAGE (arrow). sup, crude extract; ppt, pellet extract; t, N. takasagoensis; w, N. walkeri. (b) Cellulase activity against crystalline cellulose in the midgut and the hindgut of N. takasagoensis and N. walkeri. Bars are means of five determinations±s.d. See table S1 in the electronic supplementary material for more details.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Effect of antibiotics on cellulase activities in N. takasagoensis. (a) Crude extract of the midgut. (b) Pellet extract of the midgut. (c) Crude extract of the hindgut. (d) Pellet extract of the hindgut. Bars are means of five determinations±s.d. In each gut extract, activities shown as ‘b’ are significantly different from those shown as ‘a’ (*p<0.05 or **p<0.01, ANOVA and Fisher's LSD).

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