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J Dairy Sci. 1996 Aug;79(8):1503-9.

Why are ruminal cellulolytic bacteria unable to digest cellulose at low pH?

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Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Ruminant animals depend on cellulolytic ruminal bacteria to digest cellulose, but these bacteria cannot resist the low ruminal pH that modern feeding practices can create. Because the cellulolytic bacteria cannot grow on cellobiose at low pH, pH sensitivity is a general aspect of growth and not just a limitation of the cellulases per se. Acid-resistant ruminal bacteria have evolved the capacity to let their intracellular pH decrease, maintain a small pH gradient across the cell membrane, and prevent an intracellular accumulation of VFA anions. Cellulolytic bacteria cannot grow with a low intracellular pH, and an increase in pH gradient leads to anion toxicity. Prevotella ruminicola cannot digest native cellulose, but it grows at low pH and degrades the cellulose derivative, carboxymethylcellulose. The Prevotella ruminicola carboxymethylcellulase cannot bind to cellulose, but a recombinant enzyme having the Prevotella ruminicola catalytic domain and a binding domain from Thermomonspora fusca was able to bind and had cellulase activity that was at least 10-fold higher. Based on these results, gene reconstruction offers a means of converting Prevotella ruminicola into a ruminal bacterium that can digest cellulose at low pH.

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