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J Anim Sci. 1994 Nov;72(11):3004-18.

Microbial attachment and feed digestion in the rumen.

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Agriculture Canada, Research Station, Lethbridge, Alberta.


Direct microscopic examination of the rumen and its contents shows microbial populations largely attached to feed particles in the digesta. Most feeds contain a surface layer that is resistant to attachment and therefore to digestion. Infiltration of these recalcitrant epidermal layers through damage sites or through focused enzymatic attack is essential for initiation of the digestive process. Proliferation of primary colonizing cells produces glycocalyx-enclosed microcolonies. Secondary colonizers from the ruminal fluid associate with microcolonies, resulting in the formation of multispecies microbial biofilms. These metabolically related organisms associate with their preferred substrates and produce the myriad of enzymes necessary for the digestion of chemically and structurally complex plant tissues. Upon accessing the internal, enzyme-susceptible tissues, microbial "digestive consortia" attach to a variety of nutrients, including protein, cellulose, and starch and digest insoluble feed materials from the inside out. Substances that prevent microbial attachment or promote detachment (e.g., condensed tannins, methylcellulose) can completely inhibit cellulose digestion. As the microbial consortium matures and adapts to a particular type of feed, it becomes inherently stable and its participant microorganisms are notoriously difficult to manipulate due to the impenetrable nature of biofilms. Properties of feed that place constraints on microbial attachment and biofilm formation can have a profound effect on both the rate and extent of feed digestion in the rumen. Developments in feed processing (i.e., chemical and physical), plant breeding, and genetic engineering (both of ruminal microorganisms and plants) that overcome these constraints through the promotion of microbial attachment and biofilm formation could substantially benefit ruminant production.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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