Microbial Degradation

The role of the microbiome in toxin degradation:   In addition to the mammalian liver, mammals have another "organ" that may contribute to plant toxin degradation:  the microbiome.   Although this community of bacteria that live in mammalian guts is not an organ in the traditional sense, it has long been known to contribute to the digestion by herbivores of tough plant products, such as fiber.  Less is known about the microbiome's capacity to degrade plant toxins.  To date, we have found that herbivorous woodrats harbor a diversity of microbes in their foregut and that microbial diversity plays a role in an herbivore’s ability to feed on a toxic diet.