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Plant Physiol. 2011 Apr;155(4):1988-98. doi: 10.1104/pp.110.170910. Epub 2011 Feb 23.

Enzymatic activity of the soybean ecto-apyrase GS52 is essential for stimulation of nodulation.

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Division of Plant Sciences, C.S. Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.


Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth. In the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis, root nodules are the sites of bacterial nitrogen fixation, in which atmospheric nitrogen is converted into a form that plants can utilize. While recent studies suggested an important role for the soybean (Glycine max) ecto-apyrase GS52 in rhizobial root hair infection and root nodule formation, precisely how this protein impacts the nodulation process remains undetermined. In this study, the biochemical characteristics of the GS52 enzyme were investigated. Computer modeling of the GS52 apyrase structure identified key amino acid residues important for catalytic activity, which were subsequently mutagenized. Although the GS52 enzyme exhibited broad substrate specificity, its activity on pyrimidine nucleotides and diphosphate nucleotides was significantly higher than on ATP. This result was corroborated by structural modeling of GS52, which predicted a low specificity for the adenine base within the substrate-binding pocket of the enzyme. The wild-type enzyme and its inactive mutant forms were expressed in soybean roots in order to evaluate the importance of GS52 enzymatic activity for nodulation. The results indicated a clear correlation between GS52 enzymatic activity and nodule number. Altogether, our study indicates that the catalytic activity of the GS52 apyrase, likely acting on extracellular nucleotides, is critical for rhizobial infection and nodulation.

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