2015 Volume 30 Issue 1 Pages 92-98
The gut microbiota of many phylogenetically lower termites is dominated by the cellulolytic flagellates of the genus Trichonympha, which are consistently associated with bacterial symbionts. In the case of Endomicrobia, an unusual lineage of endosymbionts of the Elusimicrobia phylum that is also present in other gut flagellates, previous studies have documented strict host specificity, leading to the cospeciation of “Candidatus Endomicrobium trichonymphae” with their respective flagellate hosts. However, it currently remains unclear whether one Trichonympha species is capable of harboring more than one Endomicrobia phylotype. In the present study, we selected single Trichonympha cells from the guts of Zootermopsis nevadensis and Reticulitermes santonensis and characterized their Endomicrobia populations based on internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region sequences. We found that each host cell harbored a homogeneous population of symbionts that were specific to their respective host species, but phylogenetically distinct between each host lineage, corroborating cospeciation being caused by vertical inheritance. The experimental design of the present study also allowed for the identification of an unexpectedly large amount of tag-switching between samples, which indicated that any high-resolution analysis of microbial community structures using the pyrosequencing technique has to be interpreted with great caution.