AgResearch-led project focuses on potential of rumen microbiome

AgResearch work has been recognised for leading the way in rumen microbial genomics at the 2015 Congress on Gastrointestinal Function held during April in Chicago, USA. The study of rumen microbes remains a major research area that is central to the health and productivity of ruminant livestock.

AgResearch’s Rumen Microbiology team organised a Hungate1000 genomics workshop at the event with the sponsorship support of AgResearch and the New Zealand Government.

Launched in 2011, the Hungate1000 project is an international collaborative effort to generate a reference set of rumen microbial genome sequences led by AgResearch scientists. The project is funded by the New Zealand Government in support of the Livestock Research Group of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, while the genome sequencing is carried out by the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute as part of their competitive Community Science Program.

Before the Hungate1000 project was initiated, just 14 rumen microbial genomic sequences were available to the scientific community. Considering microbes are the key workhorses of the rumen and number in the billions per gram of rumen fluid, it was clear that much was left to be discovered through a genomics approach.

Today, the Hungate1000 project has generated and made publicly available 288 genome sequences with another 148 genomes in progress and more to follow. These genomes include all the main groups of anaerobic rumen bacteria and archaea. It is a truly international project, with cultures of rumen microbes being received from collaborators in Australia, North and South America, Europe and Asia, working to advance and capture the potential of the rumen microbiome.

The Congress on Gastrointestinal Function (CGIF) was originally started in 1951 as a rumen function conference and over the years has expanded to provide scientists with a forum to present the latest advances in gastrointestinal microbiology. CGIF is regarded as a premier conference for rumen microbiologists.

Discussion at the half-day workshop demonstrated that a significant number of research groups are now putting effort into the culturing and physiology of novel microbes using the Hungate1000 project’s data.

Discussions included the microbial involvement in bloat, subacute ruminal acidosis, early life nutrition, supplemental enzyme products, direct-fed microbials, the impact of microbes on milk fats, conjugated linoleic acids, and other performance indicators, and the identification and characterisation of genes that are unique to the rumen microbiota.

Find out more about the Hungate1000 project at www.hungate1000.org.nz