Differential Ecological Specificity of Protist and Bacterial Microbiomes across a Set of Termite Species
KAUST DepartmentBiological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division
Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
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AbstractThe gut microbiome of lower termites comprises protists and bacteria that help these insects to digest cellulose and to thrive on wood. The composition of the termite gut microbiome correlates with phylogenetic distance of the animal host and host ecology (diet) in termites collected from their natural environment. However, carryover of transient microbes from host collection sites are an experimental concern and might contribute to the ecological imprints on the termite gut microbiome. Here, we set out to test whether an ecological imprint on the termite gut microbiome remains, when focusing on the persistent microbiome. Therefore, we kept five termite species under strictly controlled dietary conditions and subsequently profiled their protist and bacterial gut microbial communities using 18S and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. The species differed in their ecology; while three of the investigated species were wood-dwellers that feed on the piece of wood they live in and never leave except for the mating flight, the other two species were foragers that regularly leave their nests to forage for food. Despite these prominent ecological differences, protist microbiome structure aligned with phylogenetic relatedness of termite host species. Conversely, bacterial communities seemed more flexible, suggesting that microbiome structure aligned more strongly with the foraging and wood-dwelling ecologies. Interestingly, protist and bacterial community alpha-diversity correlated, suggesting either putative interactions between protists and bacteria, or that both types of microbes in the termite gut follow shared structuring principles. Taken together, our results add to the notion that bacterial communities are more variable over evolutionary time than protist communities and might react more flexibly to changes in host ecology.
CitationWaidele L, Korb J, Voolstra CR, Künzel S, Dedeine F, et al. (2017) Differential Ecological Specificity of Protist and Bacterial Microbiomes across a Set of Termite Species. Frontiers in Microbiology 8. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2017.02518.
SponsorsWe thank Jan Sobotnik for kindly providing P. simplex colonies and Andreas Brune for access to a pre-publication version of DictDB that made our life much easier. We thank Sybil Staubach, Volker Nehring, and two reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was funded by DFG grants STA1154/2-1 and KO1895/16-1. The funding agency had not role in study design nor decision to publish. The article processing charge was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the University of Freiburg in the funding programme Open Access Publishing.
PublisherFrontiers Media SA
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
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