Molecular insight into lignocellulose digestion by a marine isopod in the absence of gut microbes

A. King, Simon Cragg, Yi Li, J. Dymond, Matthew John Guille, D. Bowles, N. Bruce, I. Graham, S. McQueen-Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The digestion of lignocellulose is attracting attention both in terms of basic research into its metabolism by microorganisms and animals, and also as a means of converting plant biomass into biofuels. Limnoriid wood borers are unusual because, unlike other wood-feeding animals, they do not rely on symbiotic microbes to help digest lignocellulose. The absence of microbes in the digestive tract suggests that limnoriid wood borers produce all the enzymes necessary for lignocellulose digestion themselves. In this study we report that analysis of ESTs from the digestive system of Limnoria quadripunctata reveals a transcriptome dominated by glycosyl hydrolase genes. Indeed, > 20% of all ESTs represent genes encoding putative cellulases, including glycosyl hydrolase family 7 (GH7) cellobiohydrolases. These have not previously been reported in animal genomes, but are key digestive enzymes produced by wood-degrading fungi and symbiotic protists in termite guts. We propose that limnoriid GH7 genes are important for the efficient digestion of lignocellulose in the absence of gut microbes. Hemocyanin transcripts were highly abundant in the hepatopancreas transcriptome. Based on recent studies indicating that these proteins may function as phenoloxidases in isopods, we discuss a possible role for hemocyanins in lignin decomposition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5345-5350
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2010


Dive into the research topics of 'Molecular insight into lignocellulose digestion by a marine isopod in the absence of gut microbes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this