Identification of complex rumen microbiome interaction within diverse functional niches as mechanisms affecting the variation of methane emissions in bovine

Marina Martinez Alvaro, MD Auffret, Robert D Stewart, RJ Dewhurst, C-A Duthie, JA Rooke, Robert John Wallace, Barbara Shih, Tom C Freeman, Mick Watson, R Roehe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)
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A network analysis including relative abundances of all ruminal microbial genera (archaea, bacteria, fungi and protists) and their genes was performed to improve our understanding of how the interactions within the ruminal microbiome affects methane emissions (CH4). Metagenomics and CH4 data were available from 63 bovines of a two-breed rotational cross, offered two basal diets. Co-abundance network analysis revealed 10 clusters of functional niches. The most abundant hydrogenotrophic Methanobacteriales with key microbial genes involved in methanogenesis occupied a different functional niche (i.e. “methanogenesis” cluster) than methylotrophic Methanomassiliicoccales (Candidatus Methanomethylophylus) and acetogens (Blautia). Fungi and protists clustered together and other plant fibre degraders like Fibrobacter occupied a seperate cluster. A Partial Least Squares analysis approach to predict CH4 variation in each cluster showed the methanogenesis cluster had the best prediction ability (57.3%). However, the most important explanatory variables in this cluster were genes involved in complex carbohydrate degradation, metabolism of sugars and amino acids and Candidatus Azobacteroides carrying nitrogen fixation genes, but not methanogenic archaea and their genes. The cluster containing Fibrobacter, isolated from other microorganisms, was positively associated with CH4 and explained 49.8% of its variability, showing fermentative advantages compared to other bacteria and fungi in providing substrates (e.g. formate) for methanogenesis. In other clusters, genes with enhancing effect on CH4 were related to lactate and butyrate (Butyrivibrio and Pseudobutyrivibrio) production and simple amino acids metabolism. In comparison, ruminal genes negatively related to CH4 were involved in carbohydrate degradation via lactate and succinate and synthesis of more complex amino acids by γ-Proteobacteria. When analysing low- and high-methane emitters data in separate networks, competition between methanogens in the methanogenesis cluster was uncovered by a broader diversity of methanogens involved in the three methanogenesis pathways and larger interactions within and between communities in low compared to high emitters. Generally, our results suggest that differences in CH4 are mainly explained by other microbial communities and their activities rather than being only methanogens-driven. Our study provides insight into the interactions of the rumen microbial communities and their genes by uncovering functional niches affecting CH4, which will benefit the development of efficient CH4 mitigation strategies
Original languageEnglish
Article number659
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Early online date17 Apr 2020
Publication statusFirst published - 17 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 Martínez-Álvaro, Auffret, Stewart, Dewhurst, Duthie, Rooke, Wallace, Shih, Freeman, Watson and Roehe.


  • functional niches
  • metagenomics
  • methane emissions
  • network analysis
  • rumen microbiome


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