The Rumen: Fantastic bugs and where to find them
The animal article of the month for September is ‘Invited review: Application of meta-omics to understand the dynamic nature of the rumen microbiome and how it responds to diet in ruminants’
Demand for meat and milk is predicted to double by 2050 and meeting this increased demand represents a “grand challenge for humanity”. Ruminants are among the most widely adapted livestock on earth, inhabiting outdoor environments from the arctic to the tropics. Ruminants are unique amongst livestock because they can efficiently utilize forages, food by-products and non-protein nitrogen to produce milk and meat, thereby avoiding plant materials more suitable for human consumption. This ability is a result of the evolution of an essential symbiotic association with a complex microbial community in the rumen that includes vast numbers of bacteria, methanogenic archaea, anaerobic fungi, and protozoa. These microbes produce a diverse array of enzymes that convert ingested feedstuffs into volatile fatty acids and microbial protein which are used by the animal for growth.
Rapid advances in sequencing technology and the development of bioinformatics tools to interpret multi-omic datasets have greatly expanded our understanding of the rumen microbiome. In this review we highlight some of the recent efforts to apply multi-omic approaches to characterize the rumen microbiome. We review the global collaborative efforts to increase our basic understanding of this diverse microbial community and discuss the functional insight that can be gained through the integration of multi-omic datasets. We outline the technical challenges and limitations of the methods commonly used to characterize microbial communities. The dynamics of the rumen microbiome during feed colonization, adaptation to changes in diet and the development of the rumen microbiome in young ruminants are discussed. We conclude by identifying areas of interest for future research in the rumen microbiome.
The ‘-omics’ revolution, development of new bioinformatics tools and improvements in sequence database annotations over the last decade have allowed researchers to make great advancements in our basic understanding of the importance of the rumen microbiome. To continue these advances greater efforts are needed to characterize uncultured rumen microbes and incorporate information on their metabolic activity into sequence databases. Efforts must also be made to understand how this community influences both the health and efficiency of the host. Sustainably increasing meat and milk production by ruminant livestock is essential to meet the growing demand for high quality protein by the rapidly increasing global population. Understanding the host-microbiome interaction in ruminants is a key piece of the puzzle that will aid in accomplishing this.
The animal article of the month for September is ‘Invited review: Application of meta-omics to understand the dynamic nature of the rumen microbiome and how it responds to diet in ruminants’ and is freely available for one month.
Author: Robert J Gruninger, PhD