Microbial Response to Fungal Infection in a Fungus-Growing Termite, Odontotermes formosanus (Shiraki)

Chen Yu Wu, Jing Meng, Austin Merchant, Yi Xiang Zhang, Mu Wang Li, Xu Guo Zhou, Qian Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The crosstalk between gut microbiota and host immunity has emerged as one of the research foci of microbiome studies in recent years. The purpose of this study was to determine how gut microbes respond to fungal infection in termites, given their reliance on gut symbionts for food intake as well as maintaining host health. Here, we used Metarhizium robertsii, an entomopathogenic fungus, to infect Odontotermes formosanus, a fungus-growing termite in the family Termitidae, and documented changes in host gut microbiota via a combination of bacterial 16S rDNA sequencing, metagenomic shotgun sequencing, and transmission electron microscopy. Our analyses found that when challenged with Metarhizium, the termite gut showed reduced microbial diversity within the first 12 h of fungal infection and then recovered and even surpassed pre-infection flora levels. These combined results shed light on the role of gut flora in maintaining homeostasis and immune homeostasis in the host, and the impact of gut flora dysbiosis on host susceptibility to infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number723508
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Nov 22 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 3187120146, 32070504, and 31828009). Contributions by AM and X-GZ were supported in part by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Hatch projects KY008071 and KY008090. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the NIFA or the USDA.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Wu, Meng, Merchant, Zhang, Li, Zhou and Wang.


  • 16S rDNA sequencing
  • Metarhizium robertsii
  • Odontotermes formosanus
  • gut microbiota
  • metagenome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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