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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2006 Jul;71(4):377-86. Epub 2006 May 16.

The role of PHB metabolism in the symbiosis of rhizobia with legumes.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada.


The carbon storage polymer poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a potential biodegradable alternative to plastics, which plays a key role in the cellular metabolism of many bacterial species. Most species of rhizobia synthesize PHB but not all species accumulate it during symbiosis with legumes; the reason for this remains unclear, although it was recently shown that a metabolic mutant of a nonaccumulating species retains the capacity to store PHB in symbiosis. Although the precise roles of PHB metabolism in these bacteria during infection, nodulation, and nitrogen fixation are not determined, the elucidation of these roles will influence our understanding of the metabolic nature of the symbiotic relationship. This review explores the progress that was made in determining the biochemistry and genetics of PHB metabolism. This includes the elucidation of the PHB cycle, variations in PHB metabolism among rhizobial species, and the implications of these variations, while proposing a model for the role of PHB metabolism and storage in symbiosis.

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