[Seminar] Genomics of uncultivable bacteria deciphers multilayered symbiotic system in the termite gut by Professor Yuichi Hongoh
Termites are social insects that thrive solely on dead plant matter. They are important decomposers especially in tropical and subtropical regions, while some species are notorious pests of wooden buildings. Their ability to efficiently digest lignocellulose and survive on such nitrogen-poor food is largely attributable to the activity of the symbiotic gut microbiota, which comprises single-celled eukaryotes (protists), bacteria, and archaea. Although this symbiotic system has been intriguing researchers of both basic and applied sciences for many decades, difficulties in cultivation of the gut microbes and the complexity of the community structure have hampered its detailed analyses. My research team has been attempting to entangle this complex, multi-layered symbiotic system, using culture-independent approaches including metagenomics and single-cell genomics. We reconstructed genome sequences of several uncultured prokaryotic species tightly associated with cellulolytic protist cells as endo- or ectosymbionts and predicted their functional roles in the symbiotic system. In my talk, I will introduce this fascinating symbiotic system in the termite gut, including our newest results.
Prof. Hongoh obtained his Ph.D from the Department of Biological Sciences in the University of Tokyo in 2000. After that, he stayed in Thailand for four years as a postdoc to study the termite gut ecosystem in a tropical region, then returned to RIKEN in Japan and worked on genomics of unculturable microorganisms.
In 2009, he became an Associate Professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology, and promoted to Professor in 2014. His main research topic is molecular ecological analyses of unculturable microorganisms in environments, particularly in the termite gut.
He will present today his works on the termite gut ecosystem.