Quantifying the responses of mixed rumen microbes to excess carbohydrate

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Jun;79(12):3786-95. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00482-13. Epub 2013 Apr 12.


The aim of this study was to determine if a mixed microbial community from the bovine rumen would respond to excess carbohydrate by accumulating reserve carbohydrate, energy spilling (dissipating excess ATP energy as heat), or both. Mixed microbes from the rumen were washed with N-free buffer and dosed with glucose. Total heat production was measured by calorimetry. Energy spilling was calculated as heat production not accounted by (i) endogenous metabolism (heat production before dosing glucose) and (ii) synthesis of reserve carbohydrate (heat from synthesis itself and reactions yielding ATP for it). For cells dosed with 5 mM glucose, synthesis of reserve carbohydrate and endogenous metabolism accounted for nearly all heat production (93.7%); no spilling was detected (P = 0.226). For cells dosed with 20 mM glucose, energy spilling was not detected immediately after dosing, but it became significant (P < 0.05) by approximately 30 min after dosing with glucose. Energy spilling accounted for as much as 38.7% of heat production in one incubation. Nearly all energy (97.9%) and carbon (99.9%) in glucose were recovered in reserve carbohydrate, fermentation acids, CO2, CH4, and heat. This full recovery indicates that products were measured completely and that spilling was not a methodological artifact. These results should aid future research aiming to mechanistically account for variation in energetic efficiency of mixed microbial communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Calorimetry / veterinary
  • Cattle / microbiology*
  • Cell Count / veterinary
  • Centrifugation / veterinary
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Ciliophora / drug effects*
  • Ciliophora / metabolism
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Models, Biological
  • Rumen / microbiology*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Dietary Carbohydrates