Starch and Cellulose Degradation in the Rumen and Applications of Metagenomics on Ruminal Microorganisms

Dengke Hua, Wouter H. Hendriks, Benhai Xiong*, Wilbert F. Pellikaan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Carbohydrates (e.g., starch and cellulose) are the main energy source in the diets of dairy cows. The ruminal digestion of starch and cellulose is achieved by microorganisms and digestive enzymes. In order to improve their digestibility, the microbes and enzymes involved in starch and cellulose degradation should be identified and their role(s) and activity known. As existing and new analytical techniques are continuously being developed, our knowledge of the amylolytic and cellulolytic microbial community in the rumen of dairy cows has been evolving rapidly. Using traditional culture-based methods, the main amylolytic and cellulolytic bacteria, fungi and protozoa in the rumen of dairy cows have been isolated. These culturable microbes have been found to only account for a small fraction of the total population of microorganisms present in the rumen. A more recent application of the culture-independent approach of metagenomics has acquired a more complete genetic structure and functional composition of the rumen microbial community. Metagenomics can be divided into functional metagenomics and sequencing-based computational metagenomics. Both approaches have been applied in determining the microbial composition and function in the rumen. With these approaches, novel microbial species as well as enzymes, especially glycosyl hydrolases, have been discovered. This review summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding the major amylolytic and cellulolytic microorganisms present in the rumen of dairy cows. The ruminal amylases and cellulases are briefly discussed. The application of metagenomics technology in investigating glycosyl hydrolases is provided and the novel enzymes are compared in terms of glycosyl hydrolase families related to amylolytic and cellulolytic activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3020
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2022


  • cellulose
  • enzyme
  • metagenomics
  • microbe
  • rumen
  • starch


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