Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Scharf

Committee Chair

Michael Scharf

Committee Member 1

Jonathan Neal

Committee Member 2

John Patterson

Committee Member 3

Nathan Mosier


The purpose of this research was to advance the understanding of lower termite digestive physiology and discover potential biocatalysts that can aid in the degradation of lignocellulosic biomass. Various protein characterization and gene expression methods were used throughout this research in order to accomplish these objectives. The results of this dissertation indicate that: 1) termites and their symbionts act in a synergistic manner to degrade biomass in vitro, 2) the host fraction of the gut (i.e., foregut and midgut) is the likely site of glucose absorption, 3) the termite and its symbionts contribute specific enzymes to the digestive process, 4) diet impacts biochemical and molecular aspects of termite digestive physiology, 5) the genetic makeup of the termite digestome is highly conserved, and 6) potential esterase-based ligninases from this termite can enhance saccharification in the presence of recombinant cellulases. These results suggest that utilizing Reticulitermes flavipes as a source of feedstock-specific recombinant enzymes for utilization in commercial biorefinery processes can likely decrease biocatalyst input while increasing simple sugar output, resulting in a more