Members of the phylum Planctomycetes are found in aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Here we show that the highest density of Planctomycetes in natural environments (2.6 × 109 cells ml-1) is encountered in the hindgut of soil-feeding termites (Cubitermes spp.), where they constitute up to one-third of the bacteria in the alkaline P3 compartment detected by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). A 16S-rRNA-based approach revealed that the planctomycete community is very diverse and falls into three major clusters representing novel, deeply branching lineages. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis and FISH with cluster-specific oligonucleotide probes confirmed that most of the lineages are also present in other gut compartments, albeit in much lower numbers, but absent from the food soil. The majority of planctomycetes in the gut belong to a large clade, the 'Termite planctomycete cluster', which consists exclusively of clones from termite guts and seems to be represented in all termite species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics