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Genetics. 1992 Dec;132(4):899-909.

Rhizobium meliloti genes involved in sulfate activation: the two copies of nodPQ and a new locus, saa.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, California 94305-5020.


The nitrogen-fixing symbiont Rhizobium meliloti establishes nodules on leguminous host plants. Nodulation (nod) genes used for this process are located in a cluster on the pSym-a megaplasmid of R. meliloti. These genes include nodP and nodQ (here termed nodPQ), which encode ATP sulfurylase and APS kinase, enzymes that catalyze the conversion of ATP and SO(4)2- into the activated sulfate form 3'-phosphoadenosine 5'-phosphosulfate (PAPS), an intermediate in cysteine synthesis. In Rhizobium, PAPS is also a precursor for sulfated and N-acylated oligosaccharide Nod-factor signals that cause symbiotic responses on specific host plants such as alfalfa. We previously found a highly conserved second copy of nodPQ in R. meliloti. We report here the mapping and cloning of this second copy, and its location on the second megaplasmid, pSym-b. The function of nodP2Q2 is equivalent to that of nodP1Q1 in complementation tests of R. meliloti and Escherichia coli mutants in ATP sulfurylase and adenosine 5'-phosphosulfate (APS) kinase. Mutations in nodP2Q2 do not have as severe an effect on symbiosis or plant host range as do those in nodP1Q1, however, possibly reflecting differences in expression and/or channeling of metabolites to specific enzymes involved in sulfate transfer. Strains mutated or deleted for both copies of nodQ are severely defective in symbiotic phenotypes, but remain prototrophic. This suggests the existence in R. meliloti of a third locus for ATP sulfurylase and APS kinase activities. We have found a new locus saa (sulfur amino acid), which may also encode these activities.

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