1. Studies have been made of the effects of different concentrations of either free or esterified linoleic acid on the biohydrogenation of linoleic acid by rumen micro-organisms in vitro. A comparison has been made with the changes which occurred in the fatty acid compositions of rumen free fatty acids and plasma triglycerides of sheep given intraruminal infusions of linoleic acid or maize oil.
2. In the in vitro experiments, with increasing concentrations of 18:2 added as the free fatty acid, a decreasing proportion of this 18:2 was hydrogenated to 18:0 and trans-11-octadecenoic acid accumulated. The accumulation of large amounts of trans-11-octadecenoic acid was accompanied in all instances by the accumulation of a conjugated diene identified as cis-9, trans-11-octadecadienoic acid. There appeared to be a product–precursor relationship between the conjugated diene and the trans-11 monoene.
3. When linoleic acid was presented in vitro as the triglyceride, the extent to which hydrogenation occurred was, in all instances, greater than when equivalent amounts of 18:2 were presented as the free acid. Only small amounts of the cis-9, trans-11 diene were detected, and there was no apparent product–precursor relationship between this conjugated diene and the C18 monoenoic acids. The C18 monoenoic acids that accumulated consisted of both cis and trans isomers; the cis isomers consisted largely of cis-9- and cis-11-octadecenoic acids, which together comprised about 30% of the C18 monoenoic acids present.
4. The infusion of free linoleic acid into the rumen of sheep resulted in an increase in the proportion of total 18:1 and a decrease in the proportions of 16:0 and 18:0 in the total rumen free fatty acids. This increase which occurred in the concentration of 18:1 consisted predominantly of the trans-11 isomer. A concomitant increase in the concentration of the C18trans-11 acid was observed to occur in the fatty acids of the plasma triglycerides. Infusion of maize oil into the rumen of sheep resulted in little change in the fatty acid compositions of either the free fatty acids in the rumen or the triglycerides of the plasma.
5. The findings in vitro and in vivo are discussed with reference to each other and with reference to the possibility that biohydrogenation of 18:2 derived from the triglyceride proceeds by a different pathway from that of 18:2 presented as the free acid.