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Microbiology. 2006 Jul;152(Pt 7):2061-74.

Characterization of genes involved in erythritol catabolism in Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae.

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Department of Biology, University of Regina, Canada.


A genetic locus encoding erythritol uptake and catabolism genes was identified in Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae, and shown to be plasmid encoded in a wide range of R. leguminosarum strains. A Tn5-B22 mutant (19B-3) unable to grow on erythritol was isolated from a mutant library of R. leguminosarum strain VF39SM. The mutated gene eryF was cloned and partially sequenced, and determined to have a high homology to permease genes of ABC transporters. A cosmid complementing the mutation (pCos42) was identified and was shown to carry all the genes necessary to restore the ability to grow on erythritol to a VF39SM strain cured of pRleVF39f. In the genomic DNA sequence of strain 3841, the gene linked to the mutation in 19B-3 is flanked by a cluster of genes with high homology to the known erythritol catabolic genes from Brucella spp. Through mutagenesis studies, three distinct operons on pCos42 that are required for growth on erythritol were identified: an ABC-transporter operon (eryEFG), a catabolic operon (eryABCD) and an operon (deoR-tpiA2-rpiB) that encodes a gene with significant homology to triosephosphate isomerase (tpiA2). These genes all share high sequence identity to genes in the erythritol catabolism region of Brucella spp., and clustalw alignments suggest that horizontal transfer of the erythritol locus may have occurred between R. leguminosarum and Brucella. Transcription of the eryABCD operon is repressed by EryD and is induced by the presence of erythritol. Mutant 19B-3 was impaired in its ability to compete against wild-type for nodulation of pea plants but was still capable of forming nitrogen-fixing nodules.

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