Protozoa populations are ecosystem engineers that shape prokaryotic community structure and function of the rumen microbial ecosystem

Ronnie Solomon, Tanita Wein, Bar Levy, Shahar Eshed, Rotem Dror, Veronica Reiss, Tamar Zehavi, Ori Furman, Itzhak Mizrahi, Elie Jami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Unicellular eukaryotes are an integral part of many microbial ecosystems where they interact with their surrounding prokaryotic community—either as predators or as mutualists. Within the rumen, one of the most complex host-associated microbial habitats, ciliate protozoa represent the main micro-eukaryotes, accounting for up to 50% of the microbial biomass. Nonetheless, the extent of the ecological effect of protozoa on the microbial community and on the rumen metabolic output remains largely understudied. To assess the role of protozoa on the rumen ecosystem, we established an in-vitro system in which distinct protozoa sub-communities were introduced to the native rumen prokaryotic community. We show that the different protozoa communities exert a strong and differential impact on the composition of the prokaryotic community, as well as its function including methane production. Furthermore, the presence of protozoa increases prokaryotic diversity with a differential effect on specific bacterial populations such as Gammaproteobacteria, Prevotella and Treponema. Our results suggest that protozoa contribute to the maintenance of prokaryotic diversity in the rumen possibly by mitigating the effect of competitive exclusion between bacterial taxa. Our findings put forward the rumen protozoa populations as potentially important ecosystem engineers for future microbiome modulation strategies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1187-1197
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Volume16
Issue number4
Early online date9 Dec 2021
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Microbiology

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