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15 May, 17:59

Termites are insects known for their unusual ability to eat wood as a food source. Wood is composed of dead plant cells (mostly secondary xylem) that have thick cell walls. Almost all of the other cell components are gone. Termites cannot breakdown the cell walls because they do not possess the appropriate enzyme; however, they have symbiotic microbes in their digestive tracts that do. The microbes can breakdown the cell walls and share the components with the termite. What carbohydrate are the microbes digesting and what kind of enzyme do they need?

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  1. 15 May, 18:19
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    The cell wall is mostly compose of cellulose and can be digested with the enzyme cellulase.

    Explanation:

    There are 3 different polysaccarides or carbohydrates in the cell wall: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. These can be digested with the enzyme cellulase, to decompose the cellulose and related carbohydrates. This enzyme its only present in the symbiotic microbes of the termites, and other fungi and protozoans.
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