New metabolic pathway in termite hindgut supported with symbiotic bacteria

July 9, 2014

Overall picture of termite-symbiont cellulose metabolism becomes clearer

In order to visualize an entire metabolic hierarchy from host to symbiotic microorganisms, termites were fed 13C-labelled cellulose by researchers from RIKEN CSRS and Ryukyu University according to a common model for terrestrial ecosystems. Two-dimensional NMR techniques were then used to determine termite-symbiont metabolic pathways. The researchers succeeded in revealing an overall picture of the predicted individual metabolic pathways and also discovered a new metabolic pathway involving the termite’s symbiotic hindgut bacteria. Researchers also elucidated part of the nutrient exchange mechanism for symbiosis among the termite intestinal flora and between individual termites.

The analysis techniques for reciprocal biological interactions used in this research and the construction of an ongoing analytical database of environmental samples are expected to contribute to sustaining and developing ecosystem services based on explicit knowledge rather than traditional implicit knowledge that relies upon the five senses.


Original article
Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0990
G. Tokuda, Y. Tsuboi, K. Kihara, S. Saitoh, S. Moriya, N. Lo, J. Kikuchi,
"Metabolomic profiling of 13C-labelled cellulose digestion in a lower termite: insights into gut symbiont function".

Jun Kikuchi
Team Leader
Environmental Metabolic Analysis Research team