Pseudomonas-associated bacteria play a key role in obtaining nutrition from bamboo for the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Microbiol Spectr. 2024 Mar 5;12(3):e0381923. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.03819-23. Epub 2024 Feb 2.

Abstract

Gut microbiota plays a vital role in obtaining nutrition from bamboo for giant pandas. However, low cellulase activity has been observed in the panda's gut. Besides, no specific pathway has been implicated in lignin digestion by gut microbiota of pandas. Therefore, the mechanism by which they obtain nutrients is still controversial. It is necessary to elucidate the precise pathways employed by gut microbiota of pandas to degrade lignin. Here, the metabolic pathways for lignin degradation in pandas were explored by comparing 209 metagenomic sequencing data from wild species with different feeding habits. Lignin degradation central pathways, including beta-ketoadipate and homogentisate pathway, were enriched in the gut of wild bamboo-eating pandas. The gut microbiome of wild bamboo-eating specialists was enriched with genes from pathways implicated in degrading ferulate and p-coumarate into acetyl-CoA and succinyl-CoA, which can potentially provide the raw materials for metabolism in pandas. Specifically, Pseudomonas, as the most dominant gut bacteria genus, was found to be the main bacteria to provide genes involved in lignin or lignin derivative degradation. Herein, three Pseudomonas-associated strains isolated from the feces of wild pandas showed the laccase, lignin peroxidase, and manganese peroxidase activity and extracellular lignin degradation ability in vitro. A potential mechanism for pandas to obtain nutrition from bamboo was proposed based on the results. This study provides novel insights into the adaptive evolution of pandas from the perspective of lignin metabolism.

Importance: Although giant pandas only feed on bamboo, the mechanism of lignin digestion in pandas is unclear. Here, the metabolic pathways for lignin degradation in wild pandas were explored by comparing gut metagenomic from species with different feeding habits. Results showed that lignin degradation central pathways, including beta-ketoadipate and homogentisate pathway, were enriched in the gut of wild bamboo-eating pandas. Genes from pathways involved in degrading ferulate and p-coumarate via beta-ketoadipate pathway were also enriched in bamboo-eating pandas. The final products of the above process, such as acetyl-CoA, can potentially provide the raw materials for metabolism in pandas. Specifically, Pseudomonas, as the most dominant gut bacteria genus, mainly provides genes involved in lignin degradation. Herein, Pseudomonas-associated strains isolated from the feces of pandas could degrade extracellular lignin. These findings suggest that gut microbiome of pandas is crucial in obtaining nutrition from lignin via Pseudomonas, as the main lignin-degrading bacteria.

Keywords: adaptive evolution; giant pandas; gut microbiome; lignin degradation; nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Acetyl Coenzyme A
  • Adipates*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria
  • Lignin* / metabolism
  • Pseudomonas / genetics
  • Pseudomonas / metabolism
  • Ursidae* / metabolism
  • Ursidae* / microbiology

Substances

  • Lignin
  • 3-oxoadipic acid
  • Acetyl Coenzyme A
  • Adipates