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J Bacteriol. 2002 Oct;184(20):5686-95.

Characterization of the Sinorhizobium meliloti sinR/sinI locus and the production of novel N-acyl homoserine lactones.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas 75083-0688, USA.


Sinorhizobium meliloti is a soil bacterium which can establish a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with the legume Medicago sativa. Recent work has identified a pair of genes, sinR and sinI, which represent a potential quorum-sensing system and are responsible for the production of N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) in two S. meliloti strains, Rm1021 and Rm41. In this work, we characterize the sinRI locus and show that these genes are responsible for the synthesis of several long-chain AHLs ranging from 12 to 18 carbons in length. Four of these, 3-oxotetradecanoyl HL, 3-oxohexadecenoyl HL, hexadecenoyl HL, and octadecanoyl HL, have novel structures. This is the first report of AHLs having acyl chains longer than 14 carbons. We show that a disruption in sinI eliminates these AHLs and that a sinR disruption results in only basal levels of the AHLs. Moreover, the same sinI and sinR mutations also lead to a decrease in the number of pink nodules during nodulation assays, as well as a slight delay in the appearance of pink nodules, indicating a role for quorum sensing in symbiosis. We also show that sinI and sinR mutants are still capable of producing several short-chain AHLs, one of which was identified as octanoyl HL. We believe that these short-chain AHLs are evidence of a second quorum-sensing system in Rm1021, which we refer to here as the mel system, for "S. meliloti."

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