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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Mar;59(6):1704-13.

A novel polar surface polysaccharide from Rhizobium leguminosarum binds host plant lectin.

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Institute of Biology, Leiden University, the Netherlands.


Rhizobium bacteria produce different surface polysaccharides which are either secreted in the growth medium or contribute to a capsule surrounding the cell. Here, we describe isolation and partial characterization of a novel high molecular weight surface polysaccharide from a strain of Rhizobium leguminosarum that nodulates Pisum sativum (pea) and Vicia sativa (vetch) roots. Carbohydrate analysis showed that the polysaccharide consists for 95% of mannose and glucose, with minor amounts of galactose and rhamnose. Lectin precipitation analysis revealed high binding affinity of pea and vetch lectin for this polysaccharide, in contrast to the other known capsular and extracellular polysaccharides of this strain. Expression of the polysaccharide was independent of the presence of a Sym plasmid or the nod gene inducer naringenin. Incubation of R. leguminosarum with labelled pea lectin showed that this polysaccharide is exclusively localized on one of the poles of the bacterial cell. Vetch roots incubated with rhizobia and labelled pea lectin revealed that this bacterial pole is involved in attachment to the root surface. A mutant strain deficient in the production of this polysaccharide was impaired in attachment and root hair infection under slightly acidic conditions, in contrast to the situation at slightly alkaline conditions. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that rhizobia can use (at least) two mechanisms for docking at the root surface, with use of a lectin-glycan mechanism under slightly acidic conditions.

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