The complex microbial community living in the hindgut of lower termites includes prokaryotes, flagellates, yeasts, and filamentous fungi. Many microorganisms are found in the termite gut, but only a few are thought to be involved in symbiotic association to participate in cellulose digestion. Proteomics provides analyses from both taxonomical and functional perspectives. We aimed to identify symbiont diversity in the gut of Reticulitermes santonensis (Feytaud), via complementary electrospray ionization associated to ion trap tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and twodimensional gel electrophoresis associated to matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry analysis. One specific challenge to the study of lower termites is the relatively few data available on abundant symbiotic flagellates. Analysis based on LC-MS/MS revealed few protein families showing assignments to eukaryotes and the taxonomic origin of highly represented actins could not be established. Tubulins proved to be the most suitable protein family with which to identify flagellate populations from hindgut samples using LC-MS/MS, compared with other protein families, although this method targeted few prokaryotes in our assay. Similarly, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis associated to matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry did not succeed in identifying flagellate populations, but did permit the identification of most of the prokaryotic components of the symbiotic system. Finally, fungi and yeasts were identified by both methods. Owing to the lack of sequenced genes in flagellates, targeting tubulins for LC-MS/MS could allow fingerprints of flagellate populations to be established. Experimental and technical improvements might increase the efficiency of identification of prokaryotic populations in the near future, based on metaproteomic development.
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