Bacillus megaterium GW1 and Escherichia coli W7-M5 were specifically radiolabeled with 2,2'-diamino[G-3H]pimelic acid [( 3H]DAP) as models of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, respectively. These radiolabeled bacterial mutants were incubated alone (control) and with mixed ruminal bacteria or protozoa, and the metabolic processes, rates, and patterns of radiolabeled products released from them were studied. Control incubations revealed an inherent difference between the two substrates; gram-positive supernatants consistently contained 5% radioactivity, whereas even at 0 h, those from the gram-negative mutant released 22%. Incubations with ruminal microorganisms showed that the two mutants were metabolized differently and that protozoa were the major effectors of their metabolism. Protozoa exhibited differential rates of engulfment (150 B. megaterium GW1 and 4,290 E. coli W7-M5 organisms per protozoan per h), and they extensively degraded [3H]DAP-labeled B. megaterium GW1 at rates up to nine times greater than those of ruminal bacteria. By contrast, [3H]DAP-labeled E. coli W7-M5 degradation by either ruminal bacteria or ruminal protozoa was more limited. These fundamental differences in the metabolism of the two mutants, especially by ruminal protozoa, were reflected in the patterns and rates of radiolabeled metabolites produced; many were rapidly released from [3H]DAP-labeled B. megaterium GW1, whereas few were slowly released from [3H]DAP-labeled E. coli W7-M5. Most radiolabeled products derived from [3H]DAP-labeled B. megaterium GW1 were peptides of bacterial peptidoglycan origin. The ruminal metabolism of DAP-containing gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, even with the same peptidoglycan chemotype, is thus likely to be profoundly different.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS
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