Occurrence of fungi in combs of fungus-growing termites (Isoptera: Termitidae, Macrotermitinae)

Guedegbe, H.J.; Miambi, E.; Pando, A.; Roman, J.; Houngnandan, P.; Rouland-Lefevre, C.

Mycological Research 113(Part 10): 1039-1045


ISSN/ISBN: 1469-8102
PMID: 19576985
DOI: 10.1016/j.mycres.2009.06.008
Accession: 054714781

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Fungus-growing termites cultivate their mutualistic basidiomycete Termitomyces species on a substrate called a fungal comb. Here, the Suicide Polymerase Endonuclease Restriction (SuPER) method was adapted for the first time to a fungal study to determine the entire fungal community of fungal combs and to test whether fungi other than the symbiotic cultivar interact with termite hosts. Our molecular analyses show that although active combs are dominated by Termitomyces fungi isolated with direct Polymerase Endonuclease Restriction - Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE), they can also harbor some filamentous fungi and yeasts only revealed by SuPER PCR-DGGE. This is the first molecular evidence of the presence of non-Termitomyces species in active combs. However, because there is no evidence for a species-specific relationship between these fungi and termites, they are mere transient guests with no specialization in the symbiosis. It is however surprising to notice that termite-associated Xylaria strains were not isolated from active combs even though they are frequently retrieved when nests are abandoned by termites. This finding highlights the implication of fungus-growing termites in the regulation of fungi occurring within the combs and also suggests that they might not have any particular evolutionary-based association with Xylaria species.