Metagenomic discovery of biomass-degrading genes and genomes from cow rumen

Matthias Hess, Alexander Sczyrba, Rob Egan, Tae Wan Kim, Harshal Chokhawala, Gary Schroth, Shujun Luo, Douglas S. Clark, Feng Chen, Tao Zhang, Roderick I. Mackie, Len A. Pennacchio, Susannah G. Tringe, Axel Visel, Tanja Woyke, Zhong Wang, Edward M. Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paucity of enzymes that efficiently deconstruct plant polysaccharides represents a major bottleneck for industrial-scale conversion of cellulosic biomass into biofuels. Cow rumen microbes specialize in degradation of cellulosic plant material, but most members of this complex community resist cultivation. To characterize biomass-degrading genes and genomes, we sequenced and analyzed 268 gigabases of metagenomic DNA from microbes adherent to plant fiber incubated in cow rumen. From these data, we identified 27,755 putative carbohydrate-active genes and expressed 90 candidate proteins, of which 57% were enzymatically active against cellulosic substrates. We also assembled 15 uncultured microbial genomes, which were validated by complementary methods including single-cell genome sequencing. These data sets provide a substantially expanded catalog of genes and genomes participating in the deconstruction of cellulosic biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-467
Number of pages5
Issue number6016
StatePublished - Jan 28 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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