|Zeibich, L; Staege, M; Schmidt, O; Drake, HL: Amino acids and ribose: drivers of protein and RNA fermentation by ingested bacteria of a primitive gut ecosystem, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 85 (2019), doi:10.1128/AEM.01297-19|
Earthworms are among the most primitive animals and are of fundamental importance to the turnover of organic matter in the terrestrial biosphere. These invertebrates ingest materials that are colonized by microbes, some of which are subject to disruption by the crop/gizzard or other lytic events during gut passage. Protein and RNA are dominant polymers of disrupted microbial cells, and these biopolymers facilitate robust fermentations by surviving ingested bacteria. To further resolve these fermentations, amino acids and ribose (as fermentable constituents of protein and RNA, respectively) were evaluated as potential drivers of fermentation in gut content of the model earthworm Lumbricus terrestris (taxa were examined with 16S rRNA-based analyses). Of eight amino acids tested, glutamate, aspartate, and threonine were most stimulatory and yielded dissimilar fermentations facilitated by contrasting taxa (e.g., glutamate stimulated the Fusobacteriaceae and yielded H2 and formate, whereas aspartate stimulated the Aeromonadaceae and yielded succinate and propionate). A marginal Stickland fermentation was associated with the Peptostreptococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae. Ribose fermentation yielded a complex product profile facilitated primarily by the Aeromonadaceae. The transient nature of succinate was linked to its decarboxylation to propionate and the Fusobacteriaceae, whereas the transient nature of formate was linked to formate-hydrogen lyase activity and the Peptostreptococcaceae. These findings reinforce the likelihood that (i) the animal host and hosted fermentative bacteria compete for the constituents of protein and RNA in the alimentary canal and (ii) diverse gut fermenters engaged in the fermentation of these constituents produce products that can be utilized by earthworms.