British Journal of Nutrition

Papers on General Nutrition

Production of tricarballylic acid by rumen microorganisms and its potential toxicity in ruminant tissue metabolism

James B. Russella1 and Neil Forsberga2

a1 Agricultural Research Service, USDA and Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

a2 Department of Animal Science, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA


1. Rumen microorganisms convert trans-aconitate to tricarballylate. The following experiments describe factors affecting the yield of tricarballylate, its absorption from the rumen into blood and its effect on mammalian citric acid cycle activity in vitro.

2. When mixed rumen microorganisms were incubated in vitro with Timothy hay (Phleum praiense L.) and 6.7 mM-trans-aconitate, 64 % of the trans-aconitate was converted to tricarballylate. Chloroform and nirate treatments inhibited methane production and increased the yield of tricarballylate to 82 and 75% respectively.

3. Sheep given gelatin capsules filled with 20 g trans-aconitate absorbed tricarballylate and the plasma concentration ranged from 0.3 to 0.5 mM 9 h after administration. Feeding an additional 40 g potassium chloride had little effect on plasma tricarballylate concentrations. Between 9 and 36 h there was a nearly linear decline in plasma tricarballylate.

4. Tricarballylate was a competitive inhibitor of the enzyme, aconitate hydratase (aconitase; EC, and the inhibitor constant, KI, was 0.52 mM. This KI value was similar to the Michaelis-Menten constant (Km) of the enzyme for citrate.

5. When liver slices from sheep were incubated with increasing concentrations of tricarballylate, [I4C]acetate oxidation decreased. However, even at relatively high concentrations (8 mM), oxidation was still greater than 80% of the maximum. Oxidation of [I4C]acetate by isolated rat liver cells was inhibited to a greater extent by tricarballylate. Concentrations as low as 0.5 mM caused a 30% inhibition of citric acid cycle activity.

(Received July 25 1985)

(Accepted January 16 1986)