Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Energy News  




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















FARM NEWS
Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass
by Staff Writers
Madison WI (SPX) Apr 18, 2017


Hongjie Lie, a UW-Madison postdoctoral researcher, was the first to observe close-up the symbiotic system that unites the termites with the white rot fungus Termitomyces. Image courtesy UW-Madison/James Runde.

In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect's natural gift for turning wood to dust.

According to a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when poplar wood undergoes a short, 3.5-hour transit through the gut of the termite, the emerging feces is almost devoid of lignin, the hard and abundant polymer that gives plant cells walls their sturdiness. As lignin is notorious for being difficult to degrade, and remains a costly obstacle for wood processing industries such as biofuels and paper, the termite is the keeper of a highly sought after secret: a natural system for fully breaking down biomass.

"The speed and efficiency with which the termite is breaking down the lignin polymer is totally unexpected," says John Ralph, a UW-Madison professor of biochemistry, researcher at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and lignin expert. "The tantalizing implication is that this gut system holds keys to breaking down lignin using processes that are completely unknown."

Hongjie Li, co-first author of the study, began studying the termite as graduate student at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. Now a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of UW-Madison bacteriology professor and GLBRC researcher Cameron Currie, Li was the first to keep this genus of termite alive in a lab setting, and the first to observe close-up the symbiotic system that unites the termites with the white rot fungus Termitomyces.

The entire process, as is often the case with social insects, is complex. Young termites, or young workers, collect and eat the wood. The termites' fungal-laden feces then become an integral part of a fungal comb, a sponge-like structure the termites create within a protected chamber. On the comb, the white rot fungi further degrade the wood until its simple sugars are ready, some 45 days later, to be consumed by old worker termites.

"For decades, everybody just thought that the young worker wasn't doing anything, because of how rapidly the wood passes through its gut," says Li. "But after observing the termites in the lab, I assumed there were some functions there, since the fungi simply cannot live on the wood on their one."

To explore those functions, Li enlisted the help of co-first author Daniel Yelle, a research forest products technologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory, and an expert in wood-degrading fungal systems.

"This system is unique because the fungus and the termite can't live without each other," says Yelle. "They're symbiotic, and they work together very efficiently to do things white rot fungi can't do in nature. Together they do everything more rapidly."

The system may be symbiotic, but the processes involved in the gut transit - or the mechanisms by which the termite gut succeeds in cleaving even the hardest-to-cleave portions of the lignin - are still unknown. Future research will focus on determining which enzymes or bacterial systems might be at work in the gut. If that super enzyme or process can be replicated outside of the termite, it could result in a dramatic improvement in the way we process wood and make biofuels, improving economics and cutting energy use.

"This is a great example of the value of basic science research," says Currie. "Studying how termites process plant biomass in nature not only helps us understand our natural world, but it could contribute to our own efforts to break down biomass."

FARM NEWS
Australia wheat board chairman punished over Iraq 'kickback'
Sydney (AFP) April 10, 2017
The former chairman of an Australian wheat firm was fined Aus$50,000 (US$37,500) Monday and banned from managing a corporation for five years over the payment of huge kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. Trevor Flugge was found by the Victorian Supreme Court in December to have breached his duties as a director of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), after corporate regulator the A ... read more

Related Links
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

FARM NEWS
Solar Storms Can Drain Electrical Charge Above Earth

Climate change to increase severe aircraft turbulence

NASA's High-Altitude Plane Takes to the Sky for GOES-16 Field Campaign

Scientists link California droughts and floods to distinctive atmospheric waves

FARM NEWS
Galileo's search and rescue service in the spotlight

Russia inaugurates GPS-type satellite station in Nicaragua

Northrop Grumman, Honeywell receive EGI-M contracts

China's BeiDou system to expand cooperation to SE Asia

FARM NEWS
Greenhouse gas effect caused by mangrove forest conversion is quite significant

When old growth beats old school

Stanford study explores risk of deforestation as agriculture expands in Africa

A new parameterization of canopy radiative transfer for land surface radiation models

FARM NEWS
For Palestinian family, an udder-ly unique power source

Algal residue - an alternative carbon resource for pharmaceuticals and polyesters

Gripen fighter completes test flights using 100 percent biofuel

Scientists engineer sugarcane to produce biodiesel, more sugar for ethanol

FARM NEWS
Powerpedia Forms Nonprofit to Provide Free Solar Systems to Orphanages Throughout Baja Mexico and Beyond

IEA: India needs diverse investments in renewables

Upsolar Introduces its Floating Solar Technology to Europe

Americans use more clean energy in 2016

FARM NEWS
German power company examining new wind energy options.

Canada sees emerging role for wind energy

U.N. says low-carbon economy not a "pipe dream"

Mega-wind farm offshore Denmark clears hurdle

FARM NEWS
US environmental groups file suit to block new coal mining on public lands

Adani to begin work on Australia mine by August: report

Czech energy group bucks green trend with bet on coal

World Bank indirectly backs harmful SE Asian projects: report

FARM NEWS
Dutch panda mania as giant bears arrive from China

Beijing hutongs: village life in the city

Hong Kong's Carrie Lam officially accepts role as chief executive

Hong Kong lawmaker charged for upending Chinese flag




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement