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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Dec;93(12):5902-12. doi: 10.3168/jds.2010-3500.

Host specificity of the ruminal bacterial community in the dairy cow following near-total exchange of ruminal contents.

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USDA-ARS, US Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The purpose of this study was to examine the stability and host specificity of a cow's ruminal bacterial community following massive challenge with ruminal microflora from another cow. In each of 2 experiments, 1 pair of cows was selected on the basis of differences in ruminal bacterial community composition (BCC), determined by automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA), a culture-independent "community fingerprinting" technique. Each pair of cows was then subjected to a 1-time exchange of >95% of ruminal contents without changing the composition of a corn silage/alfalfa haylage-based TMR. In experiment 1, the 2 cows differed (P<0.01) in prefeed ruminal pH (mean = 6.88 vs. 6.14) and prefeed total VFA concentration (mean = 57 vs. 77 mM), averaged over 3 d. Following exchange of ruminal contents, ruminal pH and total VFA concentration in both cows returned to their preexchange values within 24h. Ruminal BCC also returned to near its original profile, but this change required 14 d for 1 cow and 61 d for the other cow. In experiment 2, the 2 other cows differed in prefeed ruminal pH (mean = 6.69 vs. 6.20) and total VFA concentration (mean = 101 vs. 136 mM). Following exchange of ruminal contents, the first cow returned to its preexchange pH and VFA values within 24h; the second cow's rumen rapidly stabilized to a higher prefeed pH (mean = 6.47) and lower prefeed VFA concentration (mean = 120 mM) that was retained over the 62-d test period. Both cows reached somewhat different BCC than before the exchange. However, the BCC of both cows remained distinct and were ultimately more similar to that of the preexchange BCC than of the donor animal BCC. The data indicate that the host animal can quickly reestablish its characteristic ruminal pH and VFA concentration despite dramatic perturbation of its ruminal microbial community. The data also suggest that ruminal BCC displays substantial host specificity that can reestablish itself with varying success when challenged with a microbial community optimally adapted to ruminal conditions of a different host animal.

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