Exogenous fibrolytic enzymes to unlock nutrients: Histological investigation of its effects on fibre degradation in ruminants
There is a need for a better understanding of the mode-of-action of exogenous fibrolytic enzymes (EFE) used as additives in ruminant feeds. Four forages, treated with EFE, were evaluated in vitro and histologically, in an attempt to determine the effect of EFE on tissue degradation. Weeping love grass, kikuyu leaf material, lucerne and wheat straw stem material were histologically evaluated. Simultaneously, milled samples were incubated in the rumen fluid inoculated media for the determination of in vitro digestibility. The main focus, however, was a quantitative assessment of the degradation of the plant tissue at histological level over a 24 h incubation period. Degradation of cell wall components were quantified using the image analysis software. After 12 h of incubation, cell walls of the metaxylem of kikuyu and weeping love grass leaf material were thinner for the EFE treatment than for the control treatment. Treatment also resulted in a significant thinning effect of the cell walls of kikuyu phloem (12 h) and the adaxial epidermis (24 h). The abaxial epidermis at 12 h was thinner for weeping love grass due to EFE treatment. For stem material, a thinning of the epidermis of EFE treated lucerne was observed. Histological findings were concomitant with higher in vitro digestibilities of EFE treated lucerne and kikuyu. It was concluded that image analysis can be useful to quantify changes in cell wall due to the treatment of forages with EFE. There was a definite, subtle thinning effect of EFE on cell wall thickness of plant material which could be indicative of the mode-of-action of EFE.
Keywords: Fibre digestion, histology, in vitro digestion