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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Jun;48(5):1195-207.

The twin-arginine translocation (Tat) system is essential for Rhizobium-legume symbiosis.

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1
Laboratorio de Microbiología, Departamento de Biotecnología, Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Agrónomos, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain.

Abstract

The Tat (twin-arginine translocation) system mediates export of periplasmic proteins in folded conformation. Proteins transported via Tat contain a characteristic twin-arginine motif in their signal peptide. Genetic determinants (tatABC genes) of the Tat system from Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae were cloned and characterized, and a tatBC deletion mutant was constructed. The mutant lacked the ability for membrane targeting of hydrogenase, a known Tat substrate, and was impaired in hydrogenase activity. Interestingly, in the absence of a functional Tat system, only small, white nodules unable to fix nitrogen were induced in symbiosis with pea plants. Analysis of nodule structure and location of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged bacteria within nodules indicated that the symbiotic process was blocked in the tat mutant at a stage previous to bacteria release into cortical cells. The R. leguminosarum Tat-deficient mutant lacked a functional cytochrome bc1 complex. This was consistent with the fact that R. leguminosarum Rieske protein, a key component of the symbiosis-essential cytochrome bc1 complex, contained a typical twin-arginine signal peptide. However, comparative analyses of nodule structure indicated that nodule development in the tat mutant was arrested at an earlier step than in a cytochrome bc1 mutant. These data indicate that the Tat pathway is also critical for proteins relevant to the initial stages of the symbiotic process.

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