DOI: 10.1128/aem.01581-23 ISSN: 0099-2240

A rumen virosphere with implications of contribution to fermentation and methane production, and endemism in cattle breeds and individuals

Yoshiaki Sato, Hiroaki Takebe, Kento Tominaga, Jumpei Yasuda, Hajime Kumagai, Hiroyuki Hirooka, Takashi Yoshida
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology


Viruses have a potential to modify the ruminal digestion via infection and cell lysis of prokaryotes, suggesting that viruses are related to animal performance and methane production. This study aimed to elucidate the genome-based diversity of rumen viral communities and the differences in virus structure between individuals and cattle breeds and to understand how viruses influence on the rumen. To these ends, a metagenomic sequencing of virus-like particles in the rumen of 22 Japanese cattle, including Japanese Black (JB, n = 8), Japanese Shorthorn ( n = 2), and Japanese Black sires × Holstein dams crossbred steers (F1, n = 12) was conducted. Additionally, the rumen viromes of six JB and six F1 that were fed identical diets and kept in a single barn were compared. A total of 8,232 non-redundant viral genomes (≥5-kb length and ≥50% completeness), including 982 complete genomes, were constructed, and rumen virome exhibited lysogenic signatures. Furthermore, putative hosts of 1,223 viral genomes were predicted using tRNA and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-spacer matching. The genomes included 1 and 10 putative novel complete genomes associated with Fibrobacter and Ruminococcus , respectively , which are the main rumen cellulose-degrading bacteria. Additionally, the hosts of 22 viral genomes, including 2 complete genomes, were predicted as methanogens, such as Methanobrevibacter and Methanomethylophilus . Most rumen viruses were highly rumen and individual specific and related to rumen-specific prokaryotes. Furthermore, the rumen viral community structure was significantly different between JB and F1 steers, indicating that cattle breed is one of the factors influencing the rumen virome composition.


Here, we investigated the individual and breed differences of the rumen viral community in Japanese cattle. In the process, we reconstructed putative novel complete viral genomes related to rumen fiber-degrading bacteria and methanogen. The finding strongly suggests that rumen viruses contribute to cellulose and hemicellulose digestion and methanogenesis. Notably, this study also found that rumen viruses are highly rumen and individual specific, suggesting that rumen viruses may not be transmitted through environmental exposure. More importantly, we revealed differences of viral communities between JB and F1 cattle, indicating that cattle breed is a factor that influences the establishment of rumen virome. These results suggest the possibility of rumen virus transmission from mother to offspring and its potential to influence beef production traits. These rumen viral genomes and findings provide new insights into the characterizations of the rumen viruses.

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