Microbial inhabitants of the bovine rumen fulfil the majority of the normal caloric requirements of the animal by fermenting lignocellulosic plant polysaccharides and releasing short chain fatty acids that are then metabolized by the host. This process also occurs within the human colon, although the fermentation products contribute less to the overall energy requirements of the host. Mounting evidence, however, indicates that the community structure of the distal gut microbiota is a critical factor that influences the inflammatory potential of the immune system thereby impacting the progression of inflammatory bowel diseases. Non-digestible dietary fibre derived from plant material is highly enriched in the lignocellulosic polysaccharides, cellulose and xylan. Members of the Bacteroidetes constitute a dominant phylum in both the human colonic microbiome and the rumen microbial ecosystem. In the current article, we review recent insights into the molecular mechanisms for xylan degradation by rumen and human commensal members of the Bacteroidetes phylum, and place this information in the context of the physiological and metabolic processes that occur within these complex microbial environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology