Wallaby Metagenomics Advances Capabilities for Deconstruction of Plant Biomass for Biofuels


The collection of microbes (the microbiome) used to digest plant biomass in the foregut of the Australian marsupial, the Tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), expresses enzymes that digest polysaccharides and noncellulosic polysaccharides. An unusual number of novel glycoside hydrolases, a poorly understood category of enzymes that digest complex sugars, were also found. These data demonstrate that Australian plant eating mammals harbor unique bacterial lineages capable of plant biomass conversion and that their repertoire of enzymes is distinct from those found in the microbiomes of higher termites and the bovine rumen. Thus, Australia’s native herbivores are hosts for unique bacterial types that can play a part in the deconstruction of noncellulosic poly- and oligosaccharides in biomass for conversion to biofuels. The research was carried out be a team of researchers led by P. B. Pope of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Livestock Industries in Australia in collaboration with DOE’s Joint Genome Institute. Their work has just been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).


P. B. Pope, et al., “Adaptation to herbivory by the Tammar wallaby includes bacterial and glycoside hydrolase profiles different from other herbivores” Proc. National Academy of Sciences (USA) published in Online Early Edition the week of July 26, 2010.