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Microbiol Rev. 1994 Jun; 58(2): 145–161.
PMCID: PMC372960

Cyclic beta-glucans of members of the family Rhizobiaceae.


Cyclic beta-glucans are low-molecular-weight cell surface carbohydrates that are found almost exclusively in bacteria of the Rhizobiaceae family. These glucans are major cellular constituents, and under certain culture conditions their levels may reach up to 20% of the total cellular dry weight. In Agrobacterium and Rhizobium species, these molecules contain between 17 and 40 glucose residues linked solely by beta-(1,2) glycosidic bonds. In Bradyrhizobium species, the cyclic beta-glucans are smaller (10 to 13 glucose residues) and contain glucose linked by both beta-(1,6) and beta-(1,3) glycosidic bonds. In some rhizobial strains, the cyclic beta-glucans are unsubstituted, whereas in other rhizobia these molecules may become highly substituted with moieties such as sn-1-phosphoglycerol. To date, two genetic loci specifically associated with cyclic beta-glucan biosynthesis have been identified in Rhizobium (ndvA and ndvB) and Agrobacterium (chvA and chvB) species. Mutants with mutations at these loci have been shown to be impaired in their ability to grow in hypoosmotic media, have numerous alterations in their cell surface properties, and are also impaired in their ability to infect plants. The present review will examine the structure and occurrence of the cyclic beta-glucans in a variety of species of the Rhizobiaceae. The possible functions of these unique molecules in the free-living bacteria as well as during plant infection will be discussed.

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