The diet of wood-feeding termites (WFT) consists of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Cellulose and hemicellulose are utilized by symbiotic protozoa as a carbon source. Protozoa produce acetate, which is the carbon source of the termite. Recently, the mechanisms by which lignin is modified by termites have been reported. Lignin is broken down into its phenylpropanoid monomers and phenolic compounds. Bacteria from WFT gut capable of degrading lignin metabolic products are potentially valuable for bioremediation and biofuel production. A bacterium was isolated from the gut of the WFT and identified as Acinetobacter tandoii. This bacterium was capable of utilizing phenol as the sole carbon source and was able to completely degrade phenol at the concentration of 280 mg/L. A. tandoii degraded phenol via the ortho and β-ketoadipase pathway. This bacterium is a known phenol degrader, but to our knowledge, this is the first time it was isolated and tested for phenol-degrading ability from termites.
Keywords: Acinetobacter; Biodegradation; Phenol; Wood-feeding termite; β-ketoadipase pathway.