Biology of gut anaerobic fungi

Biosystems. 1989;23(1):53-64. doi: 10.1016/0303-2647(89)90008-7.


The obligately anaerobic nature of the gut indigenous fungi distinguishes them from other fungi. They are distributed widely in large herbivores, both in the foregut of ruminant-like animals and in the hindgut of hindgut fermenters. Comparative studies indicate that a capacious organ of fermentative digestion is required for their development. These fungi have been assigned to the Neocallimasticaceae, within the chytridiomycete order Spizellomycetales. The anaerobic fungi of domestic ruminants have been studied most extensively. Plant material entering the rumen is rapidly colonized by zoospores that attach and develop into thalli. The anaerobic rumen fungi have been shown to produce active cellulases and xylanases and specifically colonise and grow on plant vascular tissues. Large populations of anaerobic fungi colonise plant fragment in the rumens of cattle and sheep on high-fibre diets. The fungi actively ferment cellulose which results in formation of a mixture of products including acetate, lactate, ethanol, formate, succinate, CO2 and H2. The properties of the anaerobic fungi together with the extent of their populations on plant fragments in animals on high-fibre diets indicates a significant role for the fungi in fibre digestion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Fermentation
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Plants / microbiology
  • Rumen / microbiology
  • Ruminants