Volatile fatty acids (VFA) generated from ruminal fermentation by microorganisms provide up to 75% of total metabolizable energy in ruminants. Ruminal pH is an important factor affecting the profile and production of VFA by shifting the microbial community. However, how ruminal pH affects the microbial community and its relationship with expression of genes encoding carbohydrate-active enzyme (CAZyme) for fiber degradation and fermentation are not well investigated. To fill in this knowledge gap, six cannulated Holstein heifers were subjected to a continuous 10-day intraruminal infusion of distilled water or a dilute blend of hydrochloric and phosphoric acids to achieve a pH reduction of 0.5 units in a cross-over design. RNA-seq based transcriptome profiling was performed using total RNA extracted from ruminal liquid and solid fractions collected on day 9 of each period, respectively.
Metatranscriptomic analyses identified 19 bacterial phyla with 156 genera, 3 archaeal genera, 11 protozoal genera, and 97 CAZyme transcripts in sampled ruminal contents. Within these, 4 bacteria phyla (Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Spirochaetes), 2 archaeal genera (Candidatus methanomethylophilus and Methanobrevibacter), and 5 protozoal genera (Entodinium, Polyplastron, Isotricha, Eudiplodinium, and Eremoplastron) were considered as the core active microbes, and genes encoding for cellulase, endo-1,4-beta- xylanase, amylase, and alpha-N-arabinofuranosidase were the most abundant CAZyme transcripts distributed in the rumen. Rumen microbiota is not equally distributed throughout the liquid and solid phases of rumen contents, and ruminal pH significantly affect microbial ecosystem, especially for the liquid fraction. In total, 21 bacterial genera, 4 protozoal genera, and 6 genes encoding CAZyme were regulated by ruminal pH. Metabolic pathways participated in glycolysis, pyruvate fermentation to acetate, lactate, and propanoate were downregulated by low pH in the liquid fraction.
The ruminal microbiome changed the expression of transcripts for biochemical pathways of fiber degradation and VFA production in response to reduced pH, and at least a portion of the shifts in transcripts was associated with altered microbial community structure.||en