Influence of plant phenolic acids on growth and cellulolytic activity of rumen bacteria

A. Chesson, C. S. Stewart, R. J. Wallace

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Isolated rumen bacteria were examined for growth and, where appropriate, for their ability to degrade cellulose in the presence of the hydroxycinnamic acids trans-p-coumaric acid and trans-ferulic acid and the hydroxybenzoic acids vanillic acid and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid. Ferulic and p-coumaric acids proved to be the most toxic of the acids examined and suppressed the growth of the cellulolytic strains Ruminococcus albus, Ruminococcus flavefaciens, and Bacteroides succinogenes when included in a simple sugars medium at concentrations of >5 mM. The extent of cellulose digestion by R. flavefaciens and B. succinogenes but not R. albus was also substantially reduced. Examination of rumen fluid from sheep maintained on dried grass containing 0.51% phenolic acids showed the presence of phloretic acid (0.1 mM) and 3-methoxyphloretic acid (trace) produced by hydrogenation of the 2-propenoic side chain of p-coumaric and ferulic acids, respectively. The parent acids were found in trace amounts only, although they represented the major phenolic acids ingested. Phloretic and 3-methoxyphloretic acids proved to be considerably less toxic than their parent acids. All of the cellulolytic strains (and Streptococcus bovis) showed at least a limited ability to hydrogenate hydroxycinnamic acids, with Ruminococcus spp. proving the most effective. No further modification of hydroxycinnamic acids was produced by the single strains of bacteria examined. However, a considerable shortfall in the recovery of added phenolic acids was noted in media inoculated with rumen fluid. It is suggested that hydrogenation may serve to protect cellulolytic strains from hydroxycinnamic acids.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-603
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1982

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Copyright 2004 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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