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Microbiology. 2009 Sep;155(Pt 9):3055-69. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.025031-0. Epub 2009 May 21.

Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae 3841, deficient in 27-hydroxyoctacosanoate-modified lipopolysaccharide, is impaired in desiccation tolerance, biofilm formation and motility.

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Department of Biology, University of Regina, 3737 Wascana Parkway, Regina, SK S4S 0A2, Canada.


The lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of the Gram-negative legume symbiont Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae 3,841 contains several unique modifications, including the addition of a 27-hydroxyoctacosanoic acid (27OHC28 : 0), also termed the very long chain fatty acid (VLCFA), attached at the 2' position of lipid A. A transposon mutant that lacks expression of two putative 3-oxo-acyl [acyl-carrier protein] synthase II genes, fabF1 and fabF2, from the VLCFA biosynthetic cluster, was isolated and characterized. MS indicated that the lipid A of the mutant lacked the VLCFA modification, and sodium deoxycholate (DOC)-PAGE of the LPS indicated further structural alterations. The mutant was characteristically sensitive to several stresses that would be experienced in the soil environment, such as desiccation and osmotic stresses. An increase in the excretion of neutral surface polysaccharides was observed in the mutant. This mutant was also altered in its attachment to solid surfaces, and was non-motile, with most of the mutant cells lacking flagella. Despite the pleiotropic effects of the mutation, these mutants were still able to nodulate legumes and fix atmospheric nitrogen. This report emphasizes that a structurally intact VLCFA-containing lipid A is critical to cellular traits that are important for survival in the rhizosphere.

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