Dual origin of gut proteases in Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki) (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

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Cellulose digestion in lower termites, mediated by carbohydrases originating from both termite and endosymbionts, is well characterized. In contrast, limited information exists on gut proteases of lower termites, their origins and roles in termite nutrition. The objective of this study was to characterize gut proteases of the Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki) (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). The protease activity of extracts from gut tissues (fore-, mid- and hindgut) and protozoa isolated from hindguts of termite workers was quantified using hide powder azure as a substrate and further characterized by zymography with gelatin SDS-PAGE. Midgut extracts showed the highest protease activity followed by the protozoa extracts. High level of protease activity was also detected in protozoa culture supernatants after 24. h incubation. Incubation of gut and protozoa extracts with class-specific protease inhibitors revealed that most of the proteases were serine proteases. All proteolytic bands identified after gelatin SDS-PAGE were also inhibited by serine protease inhibitors. Finally, incubation with chromogenic substrates indicated that extracts from fore- and hindgut tissues possessed proteases with almost exclusively trypsin-like activity while both midgut and protozoa extracts possessed proteases with trypsin-like and subtilisin/chymotrypsin-like activities. However, protozoa proteases were distinct from midgut proteases (with different molecular mass). Our results suggest that the Formosan subterranean termite not only produces endogenous proteases in its gut tissues, but also possesses proteases originating from its protozoan symbionts. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.

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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology

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