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Degradation of lignified secondary cell walls of lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) by rumen fungi growing in methanogenic co-culture

TitleDegradation of lignified secondary cell walls of lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) by rumen fungi growing in methanogenic co-culture
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsBootten, T. J., Joblin K. N., Mcardle B. H., and Harris P. J.
IRL TeamCarbohydrate Chemistry
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Keywordsalfalfa, article, bacterial colonization, biodegradation, biofuel, Biomass, Caecomyces, Caecomyces communis, cell type, cell wall, Cellulose, coculture, cytology, dry weight, Electron microscopy, Fungi, fungus, fungus growth, growth rate, Lignin, Medicago sativa, Methanobrevibacter smithii, methanogenesis, methanogenic bacterium, Neocallimastix, Neocallimastix frontalis, nonhuman, Piromyces, Piromyces communis, plant cell, polysaccharide, ruminant, Scanning electron microscopy, xylan, xylem
Abstract Aims: To compare the abilities of the monocentric rumen fungi Neocallimastix frontalis, Piromyces communis and Caecomyces communis, growing in coculture with Methanobrevibacter smithii, to colonize and degrade lignified secondary cell walls of lucerne (alfalfa) hay. Methods and Results: The cell walls of xylem cylinders isolated from stems of lucerne contained mostly xylans, cellulose and lignin together with a small proportion of pectic polysaccharides. All of these major components were removed during incubation with the three fungi, and differing cell wall polysaccharides were degraded to different extents. The greatest dry weight loss was found with N. frontalis and least with C. communis, and scanning electron microscopy revealed that these extensively colonized different cell types. C. communis specifically colonized secondary xylem fibres and showed much less degradation than N. frontalis and P. communis. Conclusions: Neocallimastix frontalis and P. communis were efficient degraders of the cell walls of lucerne xylem cylinders. Degradation occurred of pectic polysaccharides, xylan and cellulose. Loss of lignin from the xylem cylinders probably resulted from the cleavage of xylan releasing xylan-lignin complexes. Significance and Impact of the Study: Unlike rumen bacteria, the rumen fungi N. frontalis, P. communis and C. communis are able to degrade lignified secondary walls in lucerne stems. These fungi could improve forage utilization by ruminants and may have potential in the degradation of lignocellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels. © 2011 The Authors. © 2011 The Society for Applied Microbiology.