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J Sci Food Agric. 2010 Aug 30;90(11):1811-8. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.4019.

A modified spectrophotometric assay to estimate deglycosylation of steroidal saponin to sapogenin by mixed ruminal microbes.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, P.O. Box 3000, Lethbridge, Alberta, T1J 4B1, Canada.



The lack of a method for measuring deglycosylation of saponins in ruminal fluid has limited the ability to investigate the impact of these compounds on rumen microorganisms. A simple spectrophotometric assay was adapted and a protocol developed to enable measurement of steroidal saponin and sapogenin in ruminal fluid. The procedure was used for in vitro determination of deglycosylation activity of rumen bacteria obtained from cattle fed or not fed Yucca schidigera saponin, and to determine the relative deglycosylase activities of extracellular and cell-associated enzymes from ruminal content.


Modifications to the spectrophotometric assay (i.e. heating time shortened to 10 min and 0.5 mL dH(2)O added to the reaction mixture) improved the stability of the optical density (425 nm) of the chromophore for up to 24 h post-reaction. Centrifugation (12 000 x g, 20 min) enabled differential estimations of steroidal saponin and sapogenin in ruminal fluid. Steroidal saponin added to defaunated ruminal fluid (dRF) or clarified ruminal fluid (cRF) was recovered completely from the mixture as saponin + sapogenin (99.1% and 100.6%, respectively), whereas saponin recovery from the supernatant of dRF was greatly reduced (P < 0.001) compared to that from supernatant of cRF (58.5 vs. 98.7%). Saponin recoveries from the supernatants of dRF and cRF did not differ between donor cattle fed or not fed Yucca schidigera saponin (59.2 vs. 57.3% and 98.4 vs. 99.3%, respectively). The majority (89-90%) of saponin added to a ruminal extracellular enzyme preparation was recoverable in supernatant after 24 h, compared with only 26-32% remaining in supernatant from incubation with a cell-associated enzymes fraction.


Mixed rumen bacteria deglycosylate steroidal saponin to sapogenin, at activity levels unaffected by prior exposure to saponin, but they were unable to degrade the sapogenin core structure. Deglycosylation activity occurred primarily in the cell-associated enzyme fraction of ruminal content.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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