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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1996 Mar;62(3):994-7.

Natural variability and diurnal fluctuations within the bacteriophage population of the rumen.

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  • 1Institute of Biotechnology, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Nutrition, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.


To investigate the impact of nutritional and environmental factors on bacteriophage activity in the rumen, it is first valuable to determine the extent of natural variations and fluctuations in phage populations from different animal species, and from animals located together and separately, and variation in animals over time. Differences in phage populations between sheep on different diets, between sheep and goats, and within the rumen over time were investigated by using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and comparing total phage DNA in ruminal fluid. It was found that no two individuals had similar DNA banding patterns, even when similarly fed and penned together, indicating there is considerable individual diversity in phage populations between animals. Despite these individual differences, the quantities, but not the banding patterns, of phage DNA were similar for animals within groups but varied between groups, suggesting that nutritional factors may influence overall phage activity in the rumen. In sheep fed once daily, a distinct diurnal variation in the phage population was observed. Two hours postfeeding, total phage DNA dropped to its lowest level. The phage population then increased, reaching a maximal level 8 to 10 h postfeeding before declining over the next 4 h to reach a stable concentration for the rest of the cycle. The general trend in phage DNA concentration appeared similar to previously recorded diurnal fluctuations in ruminal bacterial populations in cattle fed once daily.

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