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Cell. 1991 Dec 20;67(6):1131-43.

Molecular basis of symbiotic host specificity in Rhizobium meliloti: nodH and nodPQ genes encode the sulfation of lipo-oligosaccharide signals.

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  • 1Centre de Recherche de Biochimie, CNRS, Toulouse, France.


The symbiosis between Rhizobium and legumes is highly specific. For example, R. meliloti elicits the formation of root nodules on alfalfa and not on vetch. We recently reported that R. meliloti nodulation (nod) genes determine the production of acylated and sulfated glucosamine oligosaccharide signals. We now show that the biochemical function of the major host-range genes, nodH and nodPQ, is to specify the 6-O-sulfation of the reducing terminal glucosamine. Purified Nod factors (sulfated or not) from nodH+ or nodH- strains exhibited the same plant specificity in a variety of bioassays (root hair deformations, nodulation, changes in root morphology) as the bacterial cells from which they were purified. These results provide strong evidence that the molecular mechanism by which the nodH and nodPQ genes mediate host specificity is by determining the sulfation of the extracellular Nod signals.

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