A comparison of methods for determining the concentration of extracellular peptides in rumen fluid of sheep

R. J. Wallace, N. McKain

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Samples of rumen fluid were removed from pairs of sheep on four grass-hay-based diets 7 h after feeding. Micro-organisms were sedimented by centrifugation and the cell-free supernatant was treated with perchloric acid (PCA) to precipitate protein. The remaining fluid was analysed for peptides by several methods to determine how much peptide escaped degradation. Ammonia interfered with analysis by amino group reagents, especially ninhydrin. In this respect, o-phthalaldehyde and trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid were more specific and more useful than ninhydrin. Use of all these reagents showed that significant quantities of amino groups (equivalent to up to 153 mg amino acid N/1 of rumen fluid) were released by hydrolysis of the PCA extract with 6 M-HCI for 24 h. However, fluorescamine analysis indicated that the peptide content of the unhydrolysed PCA extract was < 3 mg N/1. The true amino acid content of different extracts was resolved by chromatographic amino acid analysis: the sum of individual amino acid concentrations in acid-hydrolysed PCA extracts of extracellular rumen fluid ranged from 7·8 to 14·5 mg N/1. Thus most of the free amino N released by hydrolysis of the PCA extract was not from amino acids, and most of the amino acids that were released were originally present in a form that did not react with fluorescamine. Although none of the methods gave a reliable estimate of peptide concentrations, amino acid analysis provided an upper limit. It was therefore concluded that peptide concentrations in extracellular rumen fluid are much lower than indicated by previous ninhydrin estimations, and that little dietary peptide escapes degradation for a prolonged period in the rumen.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-105
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Agricultural Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1990


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