Fibrolytic enzyme activity of herbivore microbial ecosystems.
The aim of this study was to determine firstly if there exist variations in fibrolysis among herbivore microbial ecosystems and secondly, the effect on fibre hydrolysis of compositing the most active systems with ruminal microbial ecosystem harvested from a Jersey cow. A literature review pointed to the complexity of carbohydrate (fibre) and how the physical and chemical nature of the forage carbohydrate can present barriers that hinder digestion in the rumen, especially its association with hemicelluloses, pectin, lignin and tannins. Fresh rumen fluid was collected from fistulated herbivores (Jersey cow and sheep) and faecal samples from non-fistulated herbivores (buffalo, horse, impala, camel, elephant, llama, sheep, wildebeest and elephant). Crude protein samples were precipitated with 60% ammonium sulfate. Sample activities were monitored and optimised by incubating with carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) for 2 h at 39°C. The crude protein samples precipitated from the 11 herbivore microbial ecosystems were active. This was confirmed by an increase in enzyme specific activity with a decrease in total crude protein concentration. In vitro pH optimisation showed a broad range of activity for all ecosystems (4.5-8.0) but for the zebra, horse and elephant which peaked at pH 5. In experiment two (Chapter 4), seasonal variation of the enzymes (exocellulase, endocellulase, cellobiase and xylanase) were monitored through winter and summer. Enzyme specific activity of exocellulase, endocellulase, cellobiase and xylanase were determined by incubation with the specific substrates, crystalline cellulose, CMC, pNPG and xylan, respectively. The amount of reducing sugar released was used to determine the enzyme specific activity. Exocellulase analysis was suitable in winter while summer was preferred for carboxymethyl cellulase and xylanase due to their relative abundance. Cellobiase analysis did not depend on any particular season. Eleven herbivore microbial ecosystems were characterised according to their fibrolytic enzyme specific activities. Enzyme catalytic activities were calculated from kinetic parameters (Km and Vmax) obtained from Eisenthal and Cornish-Bowded plots (Chapter 5). Fibrolytic enzyme expression as well as their activities differed among the 11 ecosystems (P<O.OOOI). They were classified into three groups based on fibrolytic enzyme concentrations; group A with high enzyme concentrations (horse, impala, zebra, wildebeest and the elephant), group B with intermediate (cow, llama, camel, buffalo and giraffe) and group C with low enzyme concentrations (sheep). Exocellulase activity was reasonably correlated with endocellulase activity (r = 0.8978). Xylanase activity was also correlated with carboxymethyl cellulase actvity (r = 0.7104). Enzyme kinetic studies revealed that crude protein samples from the horse, zebra, wildebeest and elephant had the highest enzyme catalytic activities. Microbial or enzyme composite systems were created from the most active ecosystems (horse, wildebeest and zebra) in an attempt to improve the Jersey cow system. These systems were B (cow and horse), C (cow and wildebeest), D (cow and zebra) and E (cow, horse, zebra and wildebeest). The specific activities and enzyme efficiencies of these new systems were determined and compared with system A (cow). Microbial synergism of these systems was also investigated by measuring the amount of gas produced and true degradability (TD) after 72 h of incubation. The composite systems Band E were the most active fibrolytic enzyme systems while C and D were intermediate when compared to that of A. In vitro microbial synergism assays showed that systems B, D, and E had the highest potential of improving milky maize stover (MM) and nutral detergent fibre (NDF) fermentation and degradability in Jersey cows. It was concluded that: (i) fibrolytic and hemicellulolytic enzyme concentrations vary from one season to another with the changing forages; (ii) microbial fibrolytic activities vary among animals grazing on the same field or different geographical regions; and (iii) lastly microbial synergisms of active ecosystems have the potential of improving fibre hydrolysis. However, there is a need to conduct in vivo experimentation to determine the real potential of these in vitro observations.