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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Oct;73(20):6391-403. Epub 2007 Aug 3.

Establishment and development of ruminal hydrogenotrophs in methanogen-free lambs.

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Laboratoire de Biologie des Protistes, UMR CNRS 6023, Université Blaise Pascal, 63177 Aubière cedex, France.


The aim of this work was to determine whether reductive acetogenesis can provide an alternative to methanogenesis in the rumen. Gnotobiotic lambs were inoculated with a functional rumen microbiota lacking methanogens and reared to maturity on a fibrous diet. Lambs with a methanogen-free rumen grew well, and the feed intake and ruminal volatile fatty acid concentrations for lambs lacking ruminal methanogens were lower but not markedly dissimilar from those for conventional lambs reared on the same diet. A high population density (10(7) to 10(8) cells g(-1)) of ruminal acetogens slowly developed in methanogen-free lambs. Sulfate- and fumarate-reducing bacteria were present, but their population densities were highly variable. In methanogen-free lambs, the hydrogen capture from fermentation was low (28 to 46%) in comparison with that in lambs containing ruminal methanogens (>90%). Reductive acetogenesis was not a significant part of ruminal fermentation in conventional lambs but contributed 21 to 25% to the fermentation in methanogen-free meroxenic animals. Ruminal H(2) utilization was lower in lambs lacking ruminal methanogens, but when a methanogen-free lamb was inoculated with a methanogen, the ruminal H(2) utilization was similar to that in conventional lambs. H(2) utilization in lambs containing a normal ruminal microflora was age dependent and increased with the animal age. The animal age effect was less marked in lambs lacking ruminal methanogens. Addition of fumarate to rumen contents from methanogen-free lambs increased H(2) utilization. These findings provide the first evidence from animal studies that reductive acetogens can sustain a functional rumen and replace methanogens as a sink for H(2) in the rumen.

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