Termite gut microbiome is a rich reservoir for glycoside hydrolases, a suite of enzymes critical for the degradation of lignocellulosic biomass. To search for hemicellulases, we screened 12,000 clones from a fosmid gut library of a higher termite, Globitermes brachycerastes. As a common Southeastern Asian genus, Globitermes distributes predominantly in tropical rain forests and relies on the lignocellulases from themselves and bacterial symbionts to digest wood. In total, 22 positive clones with β-xylosidase activity were isolated, in which 11 representing different restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns were pooled and subjected to 454 pyrosequencing. As a result, eight putative β-xylosidases were cloned and heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli BL21 competent cells. After purification using Ni-NTA affinity chromatography, recombinant G. brachycerastes symbiotic β-xylosidases were characterized enzymatically, including their pH and temperature optimum. In addition to β-xylosidase activity, four of them also exhibited either β-glucosidase or α-arabinosidases activities, suggesting the existence of bifunctional hemicellulases in the gut microbiome of G. brachycerastes. In comparison to multimeric protein engineering, the involvement of naturally occurring multifunctional biocatalysts streamlines the genetic modification procedures and simplifies the overall production processes. Alternatively, these multimeric enzymes could serve as the substitutes for β-glucosidase, β-xylosidase and α-arabinosidase to facilitate a wide range of industrial applications, including food processing, animal feed, environment and waste management, and biomass conversion.

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Published in International Journal of Biological Sciences, v. 14, 6, p. 608-615.

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This work was supported by the High-tech Research and Development Program of China (863:2013AA102806) to X.Y., and the Shen-Nong Visiting Scholar Funding Program of Hunan Agricultural University and a Hatch fund (Accession Number: 1004654; Project Number: KY008071) from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to X.Z.

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The information reported in this paper (No. 18-08-034) is part of a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with the approval of the Director.

Supplementary figures and tables. http://www.ijbs.com/v14p0608s1.pdf

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Supplementary Material