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Functional metagenomics unveils a multifunctional glycosyl hydrolase from the family 43 catalysing the breakdown of plant polymers in the calf rumen.Ferrer, Manuel; Ghazi, Azam; Beloqui, Ana; Vieites, José María; López-Cortés, Nieves; Marín-Navarro, Julia; Nechitaylo, Taras Y; Guazzaroni, María-Eugenia; Polaina, Julio; Waliczek, Agnes; et al. (2012)Microbial communities from cow rumen are known for their ability to degrade diverse plant polymers at high rates. In this work, we identified 15 hydrolases through an activity-centred metagenome analysis of a fibre-adherent microbial community from dairy cow rumen. Among them, 7 glycosyl hydrolases (GHs) and 1 feruloyl esterase were successfully cloned, expressed, purified and characterised. The most striking result was a protein of GH family 43 (GHF43), hereinafter designated as R_09-02, which had characteristics very distinct from the other proteins in this family with mono-functional β-xylosidase, α-xylanase, α-L-arabinase and α-L-arabinofuranosidase activities. R_09-02 is the first multifunctional enzyme to exhibit β-1,4 xylosidase, α-1,5 arabinofur(pyr)anosidase, β-1,4 lactase, α-1,6 raffinase, α-1,6 stachyase, β-galactosidase and α-1,4 glucosidase activities. The R_09-02 protein appears to originate from the chromosome of a member of Clostridia, a class of phylum Firmicutes, members of which are highly abundant in ruminal environment. The evolution of R_09-02 is suggested to be driven from the xylose- and arabinose-specific activities, typical for GHF43 members, toward a broader specificity to the glucose- and galactose-containing components of lignocellulose. The apparent capability of enzymes from the GHF43 family to utilise xylose-, arabinose-, glucose- and galactose-containing oligosaccharides has thus far been neglected by, or could not be predicted from, genome and metagenome sequencing data analyses. Taking into account the abundance of GHF43-encoding gene sequences in the rumen (up to 7% of all GH-genes) and the multifunctional phenotype herein described, our findings suggest that the ecological role of this GH family in the digestion of ligno-cellulosic matter should be significantly reconsidered.