Spirochaetes

Although spirochetes are extremely abundant in the intestinal tract of most wood-feeding termites, only a few species have been characterized in pure culture (Breznak and Leadbetter 2002; Graber et al. 2004). Termite gut spiro-chetes display an enormous morphological diversity (Margulis and Hinkle 1999; Breznak and Leadbetter 2002), but several cultivation-independent analyses have documented that they belong exclusively to the Treponema branch of the Spirochaetes, forming two distinct clusters (Lilburn et al. 1999; Ohkuma et al. 1999c).

In many instances, the spirochetal cells are attached to the surface of flagellates (for a review, see Breznak and Leadbetter 2002). Specific attachment

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Fig. 4. F420-fluorescent epibiotic methanogens colonizing a small trichomonad from Schedorhinotermes lamanianus. Phase-contrast (A) and epifluorescence (B) photomicrographs of the samoe field of view. (Figure from Brune 2004)

Fig. 4. F420-fluorescent epibiotic methanogens colonizing a small trichomonad from Schedorhinotermes lamanianus. Phase-contrast (A) and epifluorescence (B) photomicrographs of the samoe field of view. (Figure from Brune 2004)

structures have been identified (e.g., Bloodgood et al. 1974; Bloodgood and Fitzharris 1976; Radek et al. 1992, 1996), but only in a few cases have the symbionts been assigned to particular genotypes (Iida et al. 2000; Noda et al. 2003; Wenzel et al. 2003). Attached spirochetes belong to both Treponema clusters; interestingly, up to five different genotypes can be attached to a single flagellate.

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