The motility symbiont of the termite gut flagellate Caduceia versatilis is a member of the "Synergistes" group

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Oct;73(19):6270-6. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00750-07. Epub 2007 Aug 3.


The flagellate Caduceia versatilis in the gut of the termite Cryptotermes cavifrons reportedly propels itself not by its own flagella but solely by the flagella of ectosymbiotic bacteria. Previous microscopic observations have revealed that the motility symbionts are flagellated rods partially embedded in the host cell surface and that, together with a fusiform type of ectosymbiotic bacteria without flagella, they cover almost the entire surface. To identify these ectosymbionts, we conducted 16S rRNA clone analyses of bacteria physically associated with the Caduceia cells. Two phylotypes were found to predominate in the clone library and were phylogenetically affiliated with the "Synergistes" phylum and the order Bacteroidales in the Bacteroidetes phylum. Probes specifically targeting 16S rRNAs of the respective phylotypes were designed, and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) was performed. As a result, the "Synergistes" phylotype was identified as the motility symbiont; the Bacteroidales phylotype was the fusiform ectobiont. The "Synergistes" phylotype was a member of a cluster comprising exclusively uncultured clones from the guts of various termite species. Interestingly, four other phylotypes in this cluster, including the one sharing 95% sequence identity with the motility symbiont, were identified as nonectosymbiotic, or free-living, gut bacteria by FISH. We thus suggest that the motility ectosymbiont has evolved from a free-living gut bacterium within this termite-specific cluster. Based on these molecular and previous morphological data, we here propose a novel genus and species, "Candidatus Tammella caduceiae," for this unique motility ectosymbiont of Caducaia versatilis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteroidetes / chemistry
  • Bacteroidetes / classification*
  • Bacteroidetes / genetics
  • Bacteroidetes / physiology*
  • Digestive System
  • Flagella
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Isoptera / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Symbiosis*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S