Capybara gut holds valuable enzymes for biotechnology

Study elucidates unprecedented processes of herbivore metabolism involved in the efficient degradation of plant fibers

A group of researchers from the Brazilian Biorenewables National Laboratory (LNBR), Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), an organization supervised by the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI), has published in the journal Nature Communications a study that explores some of the most modern resources of current science to reveal unprecedented and valuable details of the capybara’s digestive process.

The capybara, the largest rodent on the planet, is known for its ability to degrade very efficiently the biomass it consumes, but the details of the animal’s microbiota metabolism that contribute to this characteristic have not yet been elucidated. Researcher Mario Murakami recalls that, in Brazil, this animal is used to eating sugarcane. “Since Brazilian biodiversity is an invaluable source of biotechnological solutions, our hypothesis was that the microorganisms inhabiting capybaras’ intestines have, throughout evolution, developed highly effective molecular strategies for the degradation and use of this biomass of great industrial and economic importance. And that was demonstrated in our study.”

“Population and molecular inventory” of the gut microbiome

The meticulous and unprecedented work started with a complete survey of the bacteria present in the capybara’s intestine, in addition to the expressed genes and metabolites produced from plant fibers. To understand the processes of depolymerization of lignocellulosic fibers and the efficient transformation of sugars into energy, a vast combination of techniques, methodologies and resources, including synchrotron light at the MX2 and SAXS1 beamlines of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS), was required, from the population scale of microorganisms to the atomic and molecular level of enzymes.

Read more the the LNLS website