Diversity of Cellulolytic Microorganisms Associated with the Subterranean Termite Reticulitermes grassei
Raya, María Carmen
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Reticulitermes grassei is a subterranean termite species that forages on woody structures of the Iberian Peninsula, and is often a building and crops pest. A total of 23 microorganisms associated with the activity of R. grassei were isolated from colonized ecosystems in southern Spain. They were morphologically and molecularly characterized, with fungi being the most prevalent ones. The fungi showed high values of optimum growth temperature, suggesting that they could be able to survive and develop in warm regions. Their cellulolytic activity was tested in carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) agar, concluding that all fungal isolates produce cellulases, and the enzymatic index (EI) was revealed in CMC agar with Gram’s iodine solution, with Penicillium citrinum showing the highest EI and Trichoderma longibrachiatum the highest mycelial growth rate on CMC. A preliminary microorganism dispersion assay was carried out with the termites, concluding that these insects may have a positive influence on fungal dispersion and the subsequent colonization of new substrates. Our study suggests that fungi associated with R. grassei may potentially be of interest in biotechnological fields such as biofuel production and the food industry.