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Biochem J. 2003 Jul 15;373(Pt 2):357-68.

Distinctive properties and expression profiles of glutamine synthetase from a plant symbiotic fungus.

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Dipartimento di Biochimica e Biologia Molecolare, Università di Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze 23/A, I-43100 Parma, Italy.


The nucleotide sequences reported in this paper have been submitted to the GenBank(R)/EBI Nucleotide Sequence Databases with accession numbers AF462037 (glutamine synthetase) and AF462032 (glutamate synthase). Nitrogen retrieval and assimilation by symbiotic ectomycorrhizal fungi is thought to play a central role in the mutualistic interaction between these organisms and their plant hosts. Here we report on the molecular characterization of the key N-assimilation enzyme glutamine synthetase from the mycorrhizal ascomycete Tuber borchii (TbGS). TbGS displayed a strong positive co-operativity ( n =1.7+/-0.29) and an unusually high S(0.5) value (54+/-16 mM; S(0.5) is the substrate concentration value at which v =(1/2) V (max)) for glutamate, and a correspondingly low sensitivity towards inhibition by the glutamate analogue herbicide phosphinothricin. The TbGS mRNA, which is encoded by a single-copy gene in the Tuber genome, was up-regulated in N-starved mycelia and returned to basal levels upon resupplementation of various forms of N, the most effective of which was nitrate. Both responses were accompanied by parallel variations of TbGS protein amount and glutamine synthetase activity, thus indicating that TbGS levels are primarily controlled at the pre-translational level. As revealed by a comparative analysis of the TbGS mRNA and of the mRNAs for the metabolically related enzymes glutamate dehydrogenase and glutamate synthase, TbGS is not only the sole messenger that positively responds to N starvation, but also the most abundant under N-limiting conditions. A similar, but even more discriminating expression pattern, with practically undetectable glutamate dehydrogenase mRNA levels, was observed in fruitbodies. The TbGS mRNA was also found to be expressed in symbiosis-engaged hyphae, with distinctively higher hybridization signals in hyphae that were penetrating among and within root cells.

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