Dr. Robert J Gruninger

Research Scientist

Application of a multi -omics approach to the gut microbiome in cattle, rumen microbiology, and functional genomics of rumen microbes

Current research and/or projects

A microbiome is a community of microbes that inhabits a particular environment. These communities can be complex and consist of many different types of microbes including bacteria, archaea, fungi, protozoa and viruses. The microbial community that inhabits the gut is highly diverse and plays and essential role in digestion and heath. Ruminants (cows, goats, sheep, deer, etc) have a speciallized chamber in their gastrointestinal tract called a rumen that functions in the digestion of ingested plant material. The rumen microbiome is responsible for the efficient digestion of plant carbohydrates and the conversion of these sugars into volatile fatty acids which serve as the animal's energy source. The microbes in the rumen are also the primary source of protein used by ruminants for growth. My research is focused on applying state of the art genomic techniques, classical microbiology, and protein biochemistry to understand how the microbes in gastrointestinal tract of cattle influence the health and efficiency of the animal. Ultimately the goal is to improve the health and efficiency of cattle.

Research and/or project statements

  • Development of pretreatment technology to improve the digestion of crop by-products.
  • Impact of diet on the gut microbiome in ruminants.
  • Impact of in-feed methane inhibitors on the function of the rumen microbiome.
  • Discovery and characterization of novel carbohydrate degrading enzymes in rumen microbes.
  • Role of the gut microbiome in animal health.

Education and awards

  • PhD Biochemistry, University of Lethbridge, 2009.
  • BSc (Hons.) Biochemistry, University of Lethbridge, 2005.

Awards and Honours:

  • Mentee in the Beef Cattle Research Council Mentorship program (2017-2018).
  • NSERC Government lab visiting fellowship (2014-2016).
  • Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Fellowship (2009-2012).
  • NSERC Canadian Graduate Doctoral Award (2006-2009).
  • NSERC Canadian Graduate Masters Award (2005-2006).
  • Alberta Ingenuity Graduate Studies Award (2005-2009).
  • Top Biochemistry Graduate Award, University of Lethbridge (2005).

Key publications

  1. Gruninger, R.J., Thibault, J.-N., Capeness, M.J., Till, R., Mosimann, S.C., Sockett, R.E., Selinger, L.B., and Lovering, A.L. (2014). "Structural and biochemical analysis of a unique phosphatase from Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus reveals its structural and functional relationship with the protein tyrosine phosphatase class of phytase.", PLoS ONE, 9(4: e94403). doi : 10.1371/journal.pone.0094403

    2014 - View publication details

  2. Gruninger, R.J., Gong, X., Forster, R.J., McAllister, T.A. (2014). Biochemical and kinetic characterization of the multifunctional β-glucosidase/β-xylosidase/α-arabinosidase, Bgxa1, 98(7), 3003-3012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00253-013-5191-4

    2014 - View publication details

  3. Gruninger, R.J., Puniya, A.K., Callaghan, T.M., Edwards, J.E., Youssef, N., Dagar, S.S., Fliegerova, K., Griffith, G.W., Forster, R., Tsang, A., Mcallister, T., Elshahed, M.S. (2014). Anaerobic fungi (phylum Neocallimastigomycota): Advances in understanding their taxonomy, life cycle, ecology, role and biotechnological potential, 90(1), 1-17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1574-6941.12383

    2014 - View publication details

  4. Gong, X., Gruniniger, R.J., Forster, R.J., Teather, R.M., McAllister, T.A. (2013). Biochemical analysis of a highly specific, pH stable xylanase gene identified from a bovine rumen-derived metagenomic library, 97(6), 2423-2431. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00253-012-4088-y

    2013 - View publication details