Effects of Moringa oleifera seed extract on rumen fermentation in vitro.
Moringa oleifera is a pantropical tree of the family Moringaceae. A previously undescribed property of an aqueous extract from the seeds of this plant is the modulation of ruminal fermentation patterns, especially protein degradation, as demonstrated in a short-term batch incubation system. Gas, short chain fatty acids (SCFA) and cellulolytic enzyme activities were determined as general fermentation parameters. A dot blot assay able to directly detect true protein in rumen fluid samples was used to quantify protein degradation. For complex substrates the interpretation of protein degradation profiles was amended by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) of the samples. When incubated with pure carbohydrates at a concentration of 1 mg ml(-1), the extract reduced microbial degradation of the model protein, bovine serum albumin (BSA), such that its concentration was at least 40% above the control after 12 h of incubation. Total protein degradation was thus delayed by approximately 9 h. When fermented along with wheat straw, leaf protein (Rubisco) was almost entirely protected during 12 h of fermentation. The degradation of soy proteins was retarded by at least 4-6 h, depending on the protein band. There were strong side effects on the fermentation of pure cellulose (SCFA yield-60% after 12 h), whereas cellobiose and starch fermentation were less affected (-18 and -8%, respectively). When the complex substrates were fermented, SCFA yield was reduced by approximately 30% after 12 h. In our work we clearly demonstrate the efficacy of the new substance, which is neither a tannin nor a saponin, in an in vitro system, using pure as well as complex substrates. The properties shown in vitro for the crude extract suggest that it could have a positive effect on the protein metabolism of ruminants under intensive management and that negative side effects can be overcome by an optimized dosage. If the chemical nature of the active substance and its mechanism of action can be clarified, it may provide an alternative to replace critical synthetic feed additives (such as antibiotics) for high yielding dairy cows.