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Digesting the termite digestome -- a way to make biofuels?
Date:10/21/2008

d, don't seem to have too much trouble digesting wood and other lignocellulosic materials into their component sugars, as many homeowners can attest. The termite appears to favour the fine grinding approach in combination with its own unique set of enzymes. These enzymes are secreted by both termites and the symbionts that colonise their gut, and act on the lignocellulose that has been chewed to very small particle sizes by the termite.

Despite the small size of the termite gut and the difficulty in analysing its contents, a few research groups have attempted to study what Scharf and Tartar call the termite digestome. This is the pool of genes, both termite and symbiont, that code for the enzymes that break down and digest lignocellulosic material.

Using a variety of genomic and proteomic techniques, these groups have managed to identify a number of the main enzymes, many of which could prove useful for producing ethanol. This work has already provided strong preliminary evidence that the enzymes produced by the termites and their symbionts tend to work collaboratively, with the lignocellulosic material having to be partially digested by termite enzymes before it can be further digested by symbiont enzymes.

But the study of the termite digestome has really only just begun. "There are many directions that the science can now head," says Scharf. "First, we now have the ability to produce and test individual enzymes for their competency and roles in lignocellulose degradation. Once we identify major players (from termites and symbionts), we can test combinations that may have applications in making bioethanol production more feasible from existing feedstocks, and maybe even other feedstocks that aren't on our radar screens yet."

This kind of digestome analysis could also be applied to other insects that feed on woody material, such as wood-boring beetles, and certain wasps and flies, Scharf adds.


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Contact: Jennifer Beal
wbnewseurope@wiley.com
44-012-437-70633
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

Related biology technology :

1. DOE JGI plumbs termite guts to yield novel enzymes for better biofuel production
2. Verenium Explores Bacterial Genes Inside Termite Guts to Understand How Wood is Broken Down and Converted to Energy
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