"This is ground-breaking research," said Isaac Cann, associate professor in the U of I Department of Animal Sciences and member of the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) in the Institute for Genomic Biology. "The implications are very broad, yet it all started with a simple rumen microbe. It's amazing how we can draw inferences to human health and nutrition, biofuel production and animal nutrition because of our new understanding of how a microbe works."
The cow rumen is an excellent model to study as it's one of the most efficient machines to deconstruct plant matter, Cann said. Microbes in the rumen break down plant matter into glucose and xylose to use as nutrients for fermentation and energy acquisition.
U of I researchers utilized DNA sequencing and transcriptomics (RNAseq approach) to determine all of the enzymes the organism, Prevotella bryantii, uses to deconstruct hemicellulose into simple sugars.
"If you don't completely understand what is happening, you can't improve it," Cann said. "The U of I's strong history in anaerobic microbiology and genomics, and the EBI's substantial funding enabled us to achieve this milestone. To my knowledge, this was the first time that anyone has systematically demonstrated the deconstruction of the plant cell wall hemicellulose."
Breaking down hemicellulose is one of the biofuels industry's greatest bottlenecks. Currently, the industry has microbes that can ferment simple sugars into liquid fuels such as ethanol and butanol. But they have struggled to break down feedstocks such as corn stover, switchgrass and miscanthus.
"U of I's research has created an enzyme cocktail that can release simple sugars from hemicellulose and in turn, help the biofuels industry progress," Cann said.
Even though researchers used a bacterium from the cow stomach, their results apply to microbes in the human large intestine, too. Human health and nutrition researchers are interested in the similar strategies certain rumen bacteria and human intestinal bacteria use to capture energy from dietary fiber.
"By fermenting the fiber in our diets, the microbes in our large intestine help to provide about 10 percent of our daily energy requirement," he said. "The microbial fermentation products or short-chain fatty acids provide nutrition to the cells that line our intestines."
Cann added that a greater understanding of the large population of microbes in the large intestine can impact a person's health and nutritional status. For example, a simple change in the colon's microbial population can contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel diseases.
"Understanding how different microbes obtain energy may allow us to modify our diets to select for beneficial microbes to promote better health," he said.
The same principles hold true for livestock, he said.
"It's not possible to understand the nutrition of farm animals without understanding the lifestyle of the microbial populations in their gut," Cann said. "Cattle depend on microbes to obtain their energy from both grass and concentrate diets. A better understanding of how microbes capture nutrients from plant matter can help us to make animal agriculture more efficient."
U of I researchers are building on the knowledge gained from this study to understand how two other major rumen bacteria capture energy from cellulose and cellulose/hemicellulose.
This study, "Transcriptomic analyses of xylan degradation by Prevotella bryantii and insights into energy acquisition by xylanolytic Bacteroidetes," was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Researchers include Dylan Dodd, Young Hwan Moon, Kankshita Swaminathan, Roderick Mackie and Isaac Cann of the Energy Biosciences Institute in the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois.
News Writer: Jennifer Shike, 217-244-0888, firstname.lastname@example.org
Isaac Cann | EurekAlert!
New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University
New rice fights off drought
04.04.2017 | RIKEN
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences