Verenium Explores Bacterial Genes Inside Termite Guts

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Verenium Corporation announced the results of a study designed to sequence and analyze the genes found in microbes populating the hindgut of a Costa Rican termite.

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The goal of the study, conducted by a consortium of scientific partners including Verenium, California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DoE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), was to better understand how termites break down cellulose and xylan into component sugars. Such an understanding may reveal better ways of engineering the manufacture of next-generation biofuels.

Although the primary function of the microflora in the termite's hindgut is to degrade cellulosic material, the number and range of novel bacterial genes that scientists found was unexpected and intriguing.

"We were all surprised by the enormous diversity that was revealed, and are excited by the possibilities for future research into the role each gene and enzyme might play in degrading the structural polysaccharides of plants," said Geoff Hazlewood, Ph.D., Verenium's Senior Vice President of Research. "These are important insights into nature's mechanisms that may provide keys to unlocking more effective, industrial methods for converting cellulose to ethanol."

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