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J Dairy Sci. 1996 Aug;79(8):1487-95.

Why do many ruminal bacteria die and lyse so quickly?

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Section of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Studies using 15N have indicated that as much as 50% of the microbial mass turns over before N passes to the lower gut, and this N recycling significantly decreases the availability of microbial protein. Protozoa digest bacteria and smaller protozoa, but bacterial protein can turn over even if protozoa are not present. Fibrobacter succinogenes cultures lyse even when they are growing, and the lysis rate is independent of growth rate. When extracellular sugar is depleted, F. succinogenes secretes an extracellular proteinase that inactivates the autolysins. This method of autolytic regulation decreases the turnover of stationary cells. Bacteriophage and anaeroplasma can cause lysogeny, but, as yet, there is little proof that these processes are important determinants of bacterial turnover in vivo. Dietary manipulations (e.g., salt feeding and particle size reduction) that increase liquid and solid dilution rates can increase bacterial flow by decreasing bacterial residence time and turnover. Some dead ruminal bacteria are able to maintain their cellular integrity, and the ratio of dead to live cells in ruminal fluid may be as great as 10:1. Bacterial survival appears to be at least partially explained by the method of sugar transport. When bacteria rely solely on mechanisms of ion-coupled sugar symport, an energized membrane is necessary for the reinitiation of growth. If group translocation (phosphotransferase system) is the mechanisms of transport, uptake can be driven by phosphoenolpyruvate, and an energized membrane and the storage of intracellular reserve materials are not an absolute criteria for survival. In some cases, N deprivation accelerates death. When Prevotella ruminicola was limited for N under conditions of excess energy, methylglyoxal production caused a rapid decrease in viability. The impact of bacterial death in the rumen is not clear-cut. If the rate of fermentation is zero-order with respect to cell concentration (substrate-limited), cell death would have little impact on digestion.

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