Ruminants depend on the highly diverse microbial community that resides in the rumen, the first and largest chamber of their digestive system, to gain nutrients from their herbivorous diet. The Hyper Ammonia Producers (HAPs) are obligate amino acid fermenting bacteria found in low numbers in this community. This break down of amino acids and peptides results in excessive ammonia production, as well as hydrogen and carbon dioxide, resulting in loss of nitrogen from the host and contribution to environmental emissions from enteric fermentation. Despite their large impact, little is known about the genomic underpinnings of the HAP phenotype. Our study employed comparative genomics and transcriptomics approaches to address this question. A phylogenetic tree of 498 rumen prokaryotic microbial genomes from the Hungate 1000 project (including 12 known HAPs) identified the HAP phenotype as polyphyletic, indicating independent origins or a result of horizontal gene transfer (HGT). However, following construction of sequence similarity networks for all genomes, few uniquely shared homologous genes families were apparent in the HAPs, suggesting that HGT did not drive their evolution. Instead, independent evolution of the phenotype is supported by similar functional analog profiles in the genomes of organisms with the HAP phenotype. Genome-wide characterisation and expression of functional analogs in known HAPS will allow in silico prediction of novel HAPs from the rumen which can be confirmed in vitro.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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