Cellulose Digestion in the Midgut of the Fungus-Growing Termite Macrotermes natalensis: The Role of Acquired Digestive Enzymes

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Science  31 Mar 1978:
Vol. 199, Issue 4336, pp. 1453-1455
DOI: 10.1126/science.199.4336.1453


The midguts of adult workers of the higher termite species Macrotermes natalensis contain the entire set of digestive enzymes required for the digestion of native cellulose. The Cx-cellulases and the β-glucosidases are produced, at least in part, by the termite's own midgut epithelium and salivary glands. The C1-cellulases, on the other hand, are acquired by the termites when they feed on a fungus that grows in their nests. We propose that the involvement of acquired digestive enzymes could serve as the basis for a general strategy of resource utilization and further suggest that the acquisition of digestive enzymes may be a widespread phenomenon among mycophagous invertebrates.