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J Bacteriol. 2006 May;188(10):3654-63.

Flavonoid-inducible modifications to rhamnan O antigens are necessary for Rhizobium sp. strain NGR234-legume symbioses.

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LBMPS, Université de Genève, Switzerland.


Rhizobium sp. strain NGR234 produces a flavonoid-inducible rhamnose-rich lipopolysaccharide (LPS) that is important for the nodulation of legumes. Many of the genes encoding the rhamnan part of the molecule lie between 87 degrees and 110 degrees of pNGR234a, the symbiotic plasmid of NGR234. Computational methods suggest that 5 of the 12 open reading frames (ORFs) within this arc are involved in synthesis (and subsequent polymerization) of L-rhamnose. Two others probably play roles in the transport of carbohydrates. To evaluate the function of these ORFs, we mutated a number of them and tested the ability of the mutants to nodulate a variety of legumes. At the same time, changes in the production of surface polysaccharides (particularly the rhamnan O antigen) were examined. Deletion of rmlB to wbgA and mutation in fixF abolished rhamnan synthesis. Mutation of y4gM (a member of the ATP-binding cassette transporter family) did not abolish production of the rhamnose-rich LPS but, unexpectedly, the mutant displayed a symbiotic phenotype very similar to that of strains unable to produce the rhamnan O antigen (NGRDeltarmlB-wbgA and NGROmegafixF). At least two flavonoid-inducible regulatory pathways are involved in synthesis of the rhamnan O antigen. Mutation of either pathway reduces rhamnan production. Coordination of rhamnan synthesis with rhizobial release from infection threads is thus part of the symbiotic interaction.

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