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The Hungate1000 project, has generated a reference set of 410 genome sequences of microbes found in the rumen of sheep and cattle. Involving nearly 60 scientists from 14 research organisations across nine countries, this has brought the number of rumen microbial genomes so far generated to 501. Before this project began only 15 rumen microbial genomes were available to the scientific community.

The project was named after Bob Hungate, an American scientist who trained the first generation of New Zealand rumen microbiologists in the 1960s and 1970s. Identified as a priority project by the Livestock Research Group of the Global Research Alliance support for this work also came from the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) through their Community Sequencing Programme (CSP).

The results of the work were published in Nature Biotechnology in the paper entitled "Cultivation and sequencing of rumen microbiome members from the Hungate1000 Collection".

The Hungate catalog encompasses 75% of genus-level taxa reported from the rumen and has allowed assignment of individual microbes to the major metabolic pathways involved in rumen function. For instance, the catalog of genomes encodes nearly 33,000 degradative Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes which can break down plant cell walls and rumen-specific adaptations such as the genomic underpinnings of de novo synthesis of B12 and potential vertical inheritance of the rumen microbiome have been identified. A detailed overview of other metabolic highlights and evolutionary vignettes of the rumen microbiome are presented in the paper.

The Hungate Collection was conceived as a community resource and access to bacterial cultures can be requested from AgResearch New Zealand. All available genomic data and annotations are available through the JGI Integrated Microbial Genomes and Microbiomes (IMG/M) portal: https://img.jgi.doe.gov. Additionally, all 410 genomes sequenced in the study can be downloaded via a dedicated portal: https://genome.jgi.doe.gov/portal/HungateCollection/HungateCollection.info.html

This vital reference information supports international efforts to develop methane mitigation and rumen adaptation technologies, as well as to further genome-enabled research aimed at understanding rumen function, feed conversion efficiency, methanogenesis and plant cell wall degradation in order to find a balance between food production and greenhouse gas emissions. A major use for this reference genome information will be to underpin the analysis and comprehension of metagenomic sequence datasets, enabling the generation of testable hypotheses to gain a better understanding of rumen biology.

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