BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Newly Discovered Bacteria Can Break Down Biomass
Published: March 01, 2018
Posted: April 17, 2018

Newly discovered bacteria in stomachs of ruminants could hold a key to creating more efficient and environmentally friendly biofuels and waste management processes.

The bacteria from ruminants' digestive systems could provide insights for biomass conversion.

The Science
Despite decades of research, how ruminants deconstruct plant biomass in their stomachs is still something of a mystery. Now, an international team of scientists has identified a previously unknown family of bacteria and complex enzymes that break down plant biomass and appear to be critical for ruminants to be herbivorous.

The Impact
Studying the digestive systems of ruminants like cows, sheep, and even reindeer may help scientists uncover more efficient and environmentally friendly ways to process waste and generate energy, as well as improve our understanding of ruminant nutrition. The previously unknown family of bacteria discovered in this study appears to actively degrade plant biomass in the stomachs of ruminants using complex enzymes that are different from those that are already well known to scientists. Understanding these bacteria could help scientists design animal feeding strategies and commercial systems for biofuels and waste management.

Summary
Using detailed information about the molecular biology of switchgrass and corn stover—both widely used to create biofuels—the scientists identified a previously unknown family of bacteria found in both cows and sheep. Team members included researchers from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences; the Ohio State University; EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility; Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; University of Michigan Medical School; and University of California, Davis. The team described a family representative found in the rumen of two cows. Data gathered using EMSL’s Orbitrap mass spectrometer helped scientists realize the population of bacteria was metabolically active in the rumen. In both the feedstock and the cows, the bacteria secreted multi-modular enzymes believed to be very powerful in biomass conversion. The metabolism and abundance of these bacteria indicate they may play an important role in allowing ruminants, and commercial processes, to deconstruct biomass.

BER PM Contact
Paul Bayer, SC-23.1, 301-903-5324

PI Contact
Phillip Pope
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
phil.pope@nmbu.no

Funding
This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, including support of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) and the Advanced Photon Source, both DOE Office of Science user facilities, as well as the European Research Council.

Publication
Naas, A.E, L.M. Solden, A.D. Norbeck, H. Brewer, L.H. Hagen, I.M. Heggenes, A.C. McHardy, R.I. Mackie, L. Paša-Tolic, M.Ø. Arntzen, V.G.H. Eijsink, N.M. Koropatkin, M. Hess, K.C. Wrighton, and P.B. Pope. “‘Candidatus Paraporphyromonas polyenzymogenes’ encodes multi-modular cellulases linked to the Type IX secretion system.” Microbiome 6, 44 (2018). [DOI: 10.1186/s40168-018-0421-8]

Related Links
PNNL Science Highlight: Newly Discovered Bacteria Can Break Down Biomass

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: DOE Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco
Objectives

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)