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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29392. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029392. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

Perturbation dynamics of the rumen microbiota in response to exogenous butyrate.

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United States Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service, Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, United States of America.


The capacity of the rumen microbiota to produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs) has important implications in animal well-being and production. We investigated temporal changes of the rumen microbiota in response to butyrate infusion using pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Twenty one phyla were identified in the rumen microbiota of dairy cows. The rumen microbiota harbored 54.5±6.1 genera (mean ± SD) and 127.3±4.4 operational taxonomic units (OTUs), respectively. However, the core microbiome comprised of 26 genera and 82 OTUs. Butyrate infusion altered molar percentages of 3 major VFAs. Butyrate perturbation had a profound impact on the rumen microbial composition. A 72 h-infusion led to a significant change in the numbers of sequence reads derived from 4 phyla, including 2 most abundant phyla, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. As many as 19 genera and 43 OTUs were significantly impacted by butyrate infusion. Elevated butyrate levels in the rumen seemingly had a stimulating effect on butyrate-producing bacteria populations. The resilience of the rumen microbial ecosystem was evident as the abundance of the microorganisms returned to their pre-disturbed status after infusion withdrawal. Our findings provide insight into perturbation dynamics of the rumen microbial ecosystem and should guide efforts in formulating optimal uses of probiotic bacteria treating human diseases.

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