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Rumen Fungi

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Rumen Fungi and yeast
While they may be considered the smallest microbe in the rumen, approximately only accounting for 8% of the microbial biomass. These microorganisms inhabit the rumen alternating between two forms: a motile flagellated form called the zoospore and a non-motile vegetative form. During zoosporegenesis, the flagellated zoospore is released from a sporangium and under desirable environmental conditions, begins to germinate and further develops into a mycelium and rhizoid. Thus, anaerobic fungi performs very important roles in the digestive system such as carbohydrate fermentation, polysaccharide degradation as well as solubilization of lignin.
Firstly, rumen fungi are obligate anaerobes and this gain their energy as well as maintain growth from the fermentation of plant monosaccharides such as fructose, glucose and cellobiose. For example, anaerobic fungi uses the metabolic pathway of glycolysis to convert glucose to pyruvate, which in turn is converted to lactate. This products are then further converted to the major end products; acetate, CO2 and H2.
On the other hand, majority of the plant material available in the rumen is in the form of complex structural carbohydrates such as cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, starch and insulin. The anaerobic fungi is able to degrade these polysaccharides as fungi is able to penetrate the cuticle barrier as well as vascular bundle and attack the strong bonds of these complex carbohydrate residues. This forage is then made available to the other ruminal microbes as well as the animal for use.
Also, the capability of rumen fungi to degrade polysaccharides is supported by its other important function of producing fiber degrading enzymes. These hydrolytic enzymes include cellulase, hemicellulase, protease and pectinase. These enzymes attack the crystalline structure of the polysaccharides which weakens the textual strength of the plant fibers.
In addition, rumen fungi have a high affinity for lignin-containing structures and thus are able to better degrade lignin in plant tissue better than other ruminal microbes. This is possible due to fungal enzymes being able to break the bonds in lignin complexes, thus allowing for better digestion of lignin.
Furthermore, another small contributor to the digestion process is rumen yeast. According to Robinson, yeast grow in the rumen and produce nutrients which stimulate the various functions of ruminal bacteria such fermentation of fiber as well as the yeast consumes nutrients would be considered toxic to the functioning of the other ruminal microbes such as oxygen.

References: 1. Hobson, P.N. 2012. The Rumen Microbial System. London: Spranger Science and Business Media.

2. Mountfort, Douglas. 1994. Anaerobic Fungi: Biology, Ecology and Function. New York: CRC Press.

3. Robinson P.H. 2010. Yeast products for growing and lactating ruminants. Cooperative extension, University of California: 1-2. http://www.yeastbrazil.com/Site/Produto.aspx?ID=8.

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