Fibrobacter succinogenes is an anaerobic bacterium naturally colonising the rumen and cecum of herbivores where it utilizes an enigmatic mechanism to deconstruct cellulose into cellobiose and glucose, which serve as carbon sources for growth. Here, we illustrate that outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) released by F. succinogenes are enriched with carbohydrate-active enzymes and that intact OMVs were able to depolymerize a broad range of linear and branched hemicelluloses and pectin, despite the inability of F. succinogenes to utilize non-cellulosic (pentose) sugars for growth. We hypothesize that the degradative versatility of F. succinogenes OMVs is used to prime hydrolysis by destabilising the tight networks of polysaccharides intertwining cellulose in the plant cell wall, thus increasing accessibility of the target substrate for the host cell. This is supported by observations that OMV-pretreatment of the natural complex substrate switchgrass increased the catalytic efficiency of a commercial cellulose-degrading enzyme cocktail by 2.4-fold. We also show that the OMVs contain a putative multiprotein complex, including the fibro-slime protein previously found to be important in binding to crystalline cellulose. We hypothesize that this complex has a function in plant cell wall degradation, either by catalysing polysaccharide degradation itself, or by targeting the vesicles to plant biomass.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics