Ecology and Evolution of Termite Gut Microbes


During the last decade, a large number of studies have found links between gut microbes and host biology. In human, gut bacteria provide various nutrients and contribute to healthy aging, but they can also affect human health in various ways, causing obesity, cancer or autism. The gut microbes of other animals have received comparatively less attention, but in some cases, their impact on hosts appears even higher than in human. While the gut microbial communities of many animals are transient, that of termites are specific and part of an obligatory mutualistic association. Termites cannot live without their gut microbes and, similarly, a large proportion of termite gut microbes are found nowhere else than in termite gut. This mini-symposium will be focused on the termite gut and its microbes, coined by Andreas Brune “the world’s smallest bioreactor”.

Invited Speakers (in no particular order)

  • Aram Mikaelyan, North Carolina State University
  • Gillian Gile, Arizona State University
  • Andreas Brune, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology
  • Nathan Lo, The University of Sydney
  • Renate Radek, Free University of Berlin, Institute of Zoology
  • Yuichi Hongoh, Tokyo Institute of Technology
  • Moriya Ohkuma, RIKEN BioResource Research Center
  • Gaku Tokuda, University of the Ryukyus
  • Satoko Noda, University of Yamanashi
  • Wakako Ohtsubo, Tohoku University
  • Filip Husnik, University of British Columbia


02 December – Monday

09:00 Welcome Presentations & Introductions

09:15 Talk by Ms. Arora, "Unravelling 150 million years of evolution between termites and their gut microbiome using metagenomics"

10:00 Coffee Break

10:30 Talk by Dr. Ohkuma, "Single-cell genomics of termite-gut symbionts"

11:15 Talk by Dr. Zifcakova, "Diet is the main factor affecting fungal gut microbiota of termites"

12:00 Lunch

13:30 Talk by Dr. Tokuda, "A division of labor between termites and the gut symbionts for lignocellulose degradation"

14:15 Talk by Dr. Lo, "Genome erosion is linked to mutation rate in Blattabacterium endosymbionts of cockroaches and termites"

15:00 Coffee Break 

15:30 Talk by Dr. Kinjo, "Mulation-driven genome reduction in symbiotic bacteria

16:15 Talk by Dr. Sobotnik, "Do termites have ectosymbionts?"

17:00 Discussion & Wrap up the first day

18:00 Dinner

03 December – Tuesday

9:00 Talk by Dr. Radek, "Ultrastructure and phylogeny of new oxymonad and parabasalid flagellates from lower termites"

09:45 Talk by Dr. Gile, "Evolutionary dynamics of the termite-protist symbiosis"

10:30 Talk by Dr. Hongoh, "Multi-layered symbiotic system in the termite gut"

11:15 Discussion

13:00 Excursion: Nakijin Castle Ruins > Orion Beer Factory

18:00 Dinner

04 December – Wednesday

9:00 Talk by Dr. Husnik, "Single-cell metagenomics of all protist-bacteria/archaea symbioses harbored by a single termite host"

09:45 Talk by Dr. Mikaelyan, "Ecological and evolutionary patterns in the gut microbiomes of wood-feeding insects"

10:30 Coffee Break

11:00 Talk by Dr. Bourguignon, "150 millions years of coevolution between termites and their gut microbes"

12:00 Lunch

13:00 Talk by Dr. Ohtsubo, "Treponema that we have lost: how termite gut research helps us to understand the functions of animal gut spirochetes"

13:45 Talk by Dr. Noda, "Biogeography of Reticulitermes termites and distibution of symbiotic flagellate protists"

14:30 Talk by Dr. Brune, "The terminal electron acceptors in termits guts" 

15:15 Coffee Break

15:45 Discussions

16:45 Wrap-up

18:00 Dinner


Tom Bourguignon:

Chihiro Arasaki: