443035 Microbial Response in a Synthetic Termite Gut Microenvironment with Micro-Oxygen Gradients

Monday, November 9, 2015
Exhibit Hall 1 (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Elise Gilcher1, Mitchell Cyr1, Charles Bridges2, Leslie M. Shor1 and Daniel J. Gage2, (1)Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, (2)Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Termites efficiently derive energy from woody waste material processed by endosymbiotic microbes. However, sustaining complex microbial communities in synthetic laboratory environments can be challenging if exact requirements for microbe growth are not met. Members of a microbial consortia depend on the rest of their community to grow and survive, often making individual species impossible to culture in isolation. The microbial consortia in the hindgut of the lower termite Reticulitermes flavipes exhibits a microoxic periphery one millimeter away from an anoxic center. This microhabitat has never before been emulated in a laboratory setting.  Here we describe the development of a microfluidic device with tunable, steep oxygen gradients required to sustain this consortium. We found that microbes collected from real termite guts and introduced into the synthetic microenvironment respond to the local oxygen conditions. A 3D printed master design approach enabled rapid iterative prototyping of the synthetic microhabitat. Our work furthers understanding of how microbes organize spatially within a microscale oxygen gradient. Ultimately, our work will contribute to an understanding of how complex consortia act in concert to break down lignocellulose for energy purposes.

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