Anaerobic fungi are an important component of the cellulolytic ruminal microflora. Ammonia alone as N source supports growth, but amino acid mixtures are stimulatory. In order to evaluate the extent of de novo synthesis of individual amino acids in Piromyces communis and Neocallimastix frontalis, isotope enrichment in amino acids was determined during growth on (NH4Cl)-N-15 in different media. Most cell N (0.78 and 0.63 for P. communis and N. frontalis, respectively) and amino acid N (0.73 and 0.59) continued to be formed de novo from ammonia when 1 g l(-1) trypticase was added to the medium; this concentration approximates the peak concentration of peptides in the rumen after feeding. Higher peptide/amino acid concentrations decreased de novo synthesis. Lysine was exceptional, in that its synthesis decreased much more than other amino acids when Trypticase or amino acids were added to the medium, suggesting that lysine synthesis might limit fungal growth in the rumen. (C) 2002 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.