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Catechol 2,3-Dioxygenase-Assisted Cleavage of Aromatics by "Anaerobic" Termite Gut Spirochetes and Genomic Evidence of a Complete Meta-Pathway


Lucey, Kaitlyn Shae (2014) Catechol 2,3-Dioxygenase-Assisted Cleavage of Aromatics by "Anaerobic" Termite Gut Spirochetes and Genomic Evidence of a Complete Meta-Pathway. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/KQB3-7010.


The termite hindgut microbial ecosystem functions like a miniature lignocellulose-metabolizing natural bioreactor, has significant implications to nutrient cycling in the terrestrial environment, and represents an array of microbial metabolic diversity. Deciphering the intricacies of this microbial community to obtain as complete a picture as possible of how it functions as a whole, requires a combination of various traditional and cutting-edge bioinformatic, molecular, physiological, and culturing approaches. Isolates from this ecosystem, including Treponema primitia str. ZAS-1 and ZAS-2 as well as T. azotonutricium str. ZAS-9, have been significant resources for better understanding the termite system. While not all functions predicted by the genomes of these three isolates are demonstrated in vitro, these isolates do have the capacity for several metabolisms unique to spirochetes and critical to the termite system’s reliance upon lignocellulose. In this thesis, work culturing, enriching for, and isolating diverse microorganisms from the termite hindgut is discussed. Additionally, strategies of members of the termite hindgut microbial community to defend against O2-stress and to generate acetate, the “biofuel” of the termite system, are proposed. In particular, catechol 2,3-dioxygenase and other meta-cleavage catabolic pathway genes are described in the “anaerobic” termite hindgut spirochetes T. primitia str. ZAS-1 and ZAS-2, and the first evidence for aromatic ring cleavage in the phylum (division) Spirochetes is also presented. These results suggest that the potential for O2-dependent, yet nonrespiratory, metabolisms of plant-derived aromatics should be re-evaluated in termite hindgut communities. Potential future work is also illustrated.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:catechol 2,3-dioxygenase, meta-cleavage pathway, aromatic metabolism, spirochete, termite hindgut microbial community, symbiosis
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Environmental Science and Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Leadbetter, Jared R.
Thesis Committee:
  • Orphan, Victoria J. (chair)
  • Leadbetter, Jared R.
  • Mazmanian, Sarkis K.
  • Newman, Dianne K.
Defense Date:13 June 2013
Funding AgencyGrant Number
U.S. Department of EnergyDE-FG02-07ER64484
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10262013-152651094
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8017
Deposited By: Kaitlyn Lucey
Deposited On:20 Nov 2013 18:04
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:03

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