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Anaerobe. 2004 Oct;10(5):277-85.

16S ribosomal DNA-directed PCR primers for ruminal methanogens and identification of methanogens colonising young lambs.

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Rumen Biotechnology, AgResearch, Grasslands Research Centre, Private Bag 11008, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


The population densities and identities of methanogens colonising new-born lambs in a grazing flock were determined from rumen samples collected at regular intervals after birth. Methanogen colonisation was found at the first sampling (1-3 days after birth) and population densities reached around 10(4) methanogens per gram at 1 week of age. Population densities increased in an exponential manner to a maximum of 10(8)-10(9) per gram at 3 weeks of age. To identify methanogens, PCR primers specific for each of the Archaea; a grouping of the orders Methanomicrobiales, Methanosarcinales and Methanococcales; the order Methanobacteriales; the order Methanococcales; the order Methanosarcinales; the genus Methanobacterium; and the genus Methanobrevibacter were designed. Primer-pair specificities were confirmed in tests with target and non-target micro-organisms. PCR analysis of DNA extracts revealed that all the detectable ruminal methanogens belonged to the order Methanobacteriales, with no methanogens belonging to the Methanomicrobiales, the Methanosarcinales, or the Methanococcales being detected. In 3 lambs, the initial colonising methanogens were Methanobrevibacter spp. and in 2 lambs were a mixture of Methanobrevibacter and Methanobacterium spp. In the latter case, the initial colonising Methanobacterium spp. subsequently disappeared and were not detectable 12-19 days after birth. Seven weeks after birth, lambs contained only Methanobrevibacter spp. This study, the first to provide information on the identities of methanogens colonising pre-ruminants, suggests that the predominant methanogens found in the mature rumen establish very soon after birth and well before a functioning rumen develops.

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