Chemical signalling within the rumen microbiome

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Ruminants possess a specialized four-compartment forestomach, consisting of the reticulum, rumen, omasum, and abomasum. The rumen, the primary fermentative chamber, harbours a dynamic ecosystem comprising bacteria, protozoa, fungi, archaea, and bacteriophages. These microorganisms engage in diverse ecological interactions within the rumen microbiome, primarily benefiting the host animal by deriving energy from plant material breakdown. These interactions encompass symbiosis, such as mutualism and commensalism, as well as parasitism, predation, and competition. These ecological interactions are dependent on many factors, including the production of diverse molecules, such as those involved in quorum sensing (QS). QS is a density-dependent signalling mechanism involving the release of autoinducer (AIs) compounds, when cell density increases AIs bind to receptors causing the altered expression of certain genes. These AIs are classified as mainly being N-acyl-homoserine lactones (AHL); commonly used by Gram-negative bacteria) or Autoinducer-2 based systems (AI-2; used by Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria); although other less common AI systems exist. Most of our understanding of QS at a gene-level comes from pure culture in vitro studies using bacterial pathogens, with much being unknown on a commensal bacterial and ecosystem level, especially in the context of the rumen microbiome. A small number of studies have explored QS in the rumen using 'omic' technologies, revealing a prevalence of AI-2 QS systems among rumen bacteria. Nevertheless, the implications of these signalling systems on gene regulation, rumen ecology, and ruminant characteristics are largely uncharted territory. Metatranscriptome data tracking the colonization of perennial ryegrass by rumen microbes suggest that these chemicals may influence transitions in bacterial diversity during colonization. The likelihood of undiscovered chemicals within the rumen microbial arsenal is high, with the identified chemicals representing only the tip of the iceberg. A comprehensive grasp of rumen microbial chemical signalling is crucial for addressing the challenges of food security and climate targets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-345
JournalAnimal Bioscience
Issue number2
Early online date29 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Quorum Sensing
  • Ecology
  • Autoinducers
  • Gene Regulation
  • AI-2
  • AHL


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