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J Bacteriol. 1997 May;179(9):2884-91.

Lipopolysaccharide dependence of cyanophage sensitivity and aerobic nitrogen fixation in Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120.

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  • 1MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824, USA.


Fox- mutants of Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 are unable to fix dinitrogen in the presence of oxygen. A fragment of the DNA of Anabaena sp. was cloned by complementation of a spontaneous Fox-, cyanophage-resistant mutant, R56, and characterized. Random insertion of transposon Tn5 delimited the complementing DNA to a 0.6-kb portion of the cloned fragment. Sequencing of this region and flanking DNA showed one complete open reading frame (ORF) similar to the gene rfbP (undecaprenyl-phosphate galactosephosphotransferase) and two partial ORFs similar to genes rfbD (GDP-D-mannose dehydratase) and rfbZ (first mannosyl transferase), all of which are active in the synthesis of the O antigen unit of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component of the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria. In a transposon (Tn5-1087b)-induced, Fox-, cyanophage-resistant mutant, B14, the transposon was found within the same rfbP-like ORF. The three ORFs were insertionally inactivated with the omega cassette (P. Prentki and H. M. Krisch, Gene 29:303-313, 1984) or with Tn5::omega. Only the insertions in the rfbZ- and rfbP-like ORFs led to resistance to cyanophages A-1(L) and A-4(L) and to a Fox- phenotype. Electrophoretic analysis showed that interruption of the rfbZ- and rfbP-like ORFs resulted in a change in or loss of the characteristic pattern of the lengths of the LPS, whereas interruption of the rfbD-like ORF merely changed the distribution of the lengths of the LPS to one with a greater prevalence of low molecular weights. According to electron microscopy, interruption of the rfbP-like ORF may have led to aberrant deposition of the layers of the heterocyst envelope, resulting in increased leakage of oxygen into the heterocyst. The results suggest that modified LPS may prevent cyanophage infection of Anabaena sp. vegetative cells and the formation of a functional heterocyst envelope.

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