The anaerobic fungus Neocallimastix sp. strain R1 was grown for up to 5 days on a medium containing autoclaved Italian ryegrass hay as the carbon source. Culture supernatants and digested cell walls were harvested at 12-h intervals. Supernatants were analyzed for the fermentation products formate and acetate, and residual cell walls were analyzed for dry-matter and neutral-sugar losses. Fungal growth was accompanied by the digestion of plant cell walls and the accumulation of fermentation products in culture media. Dry-matter losses were accounted for by removal of four major neutral sugars (arabinose, galactose, glucose, and xylose) from the plant cell walls. First-order reaction kinetics could be used to describe the loss of each sugar. All cell wall sugars, including arabinose and galactose, which are not fermented by Neocallimastix sp. strain R1 were removed simultaneously. Although the rates of removal of individual sugars were similar, there were significant differences in their extents of removal: the extent of removal of arabinose exceeded that of the other three sugars, and xylose was the least digestible. This study provides the first account of simultaneous (nonpreferential) removal of neutral sugars from plant cell walls by an anaerobic fungus. Although in vitro techniques were used, these results indicate a potentially significant role for the anaerobic fungi as fiber digesters in the rumen
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