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Genome of an Endosymbiont Coupling N2 Fixation to Cellulolysis Within Protist Cells in Termite Gut

Science  14 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5904, pp. 1108-1109
DOI: 10.1126/science.1165578

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Abstract

Termites harbor diverse symbiotic gut microorganisms, the majority of which are as yet uncultivable and their interrelationships unclear. Here, we present the complete genome sequence of the uncultured Bacteroidales endosymbiont of the cellulolytic protist Pseudotrichonympha grassii, which accounts for 70% of the bacterial cells in the gut of the termite Coptotermes formosanus. Functional annotation of the chromosome (1,114,206 base pairs) unveiled its ability to fix dinitrogen and recycle putative host nitrogen wastes for biosynthesis of diverse amino acids and cofactors, and import glucose and xylose as energy and carbon sources. Thus, nitrogen fixation and cellulolysis are coupled within the protist's cells. This highly evolved symbiotic system probably underlies the ability of the worldwide pest termites Coptotermes to use wood as their sole food.

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