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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2006 May;56(2):195-206.

Investigations of Rhizobium biofilm formation.

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Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, USA.


The development of nitrogen-fixing nodules of the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis, especially the early stages of root hair deformation and curling, infection thread formation, and nodule initiation, has been well studied from a genetic standpoint. In contrast, the factors important for the colonization of surfaces by rhizobia, including roots-an important prerequisite for nodule formation-have not been as thoroughly investigated. We developed conditions for analyzing the ability of two fast-growing rhizobia, Sinorhizobium meliloti and Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae, to produce biofilms on abiotic surfaces such as glass, plastic microtiter plates, sand and soil as a prelude to characterizing the genes important for aggregation and attachment. Factors involved in adherence to abiotic surfaces are likely to be used in rhizobial attachment to legume root cells. In this report, we show that S. meliloti exopolysaccharide-deficient mutants as well as exopolysaccharide overproducers exhibit reduced biofilm phenotypes that show parallels with their nodulation abilities. We also investigated two flagella-less S. meliloti mutants and found them to have reduced biofilming capabilities. To investigate whether there was a symbiotic phenotype, we tested one of the Fla- mutants on two different S. meliloti hosts, alfalfa and white sweetclover, and found that nodule formation was significantly delayed on the latter.

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