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BMC Microbiol. 2013 Dec 11;13:290. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-13-290.

PhaP phasins play a principal role in poly-β-hydroxybutyrate accumulation in free-living Bradyrhizobium japonicum.

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Department of Agrobioscience, Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Kobe University, 1-1 Rokkodai, Nada, Kobe 657 8501, Japan.



Bradyrhizobium japonicum USDA110, a soybean symbiont, is capable of accumulating a large amount of poly-β-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) as an intracellular carbon storage polymer during free-living growth. Within the genome of USDA110, there are a number of genes annotated as paralogs of proteins involved in PHB metabolism, including its biosynthesis, degradation, and stabilization of its granules. They include two phbA paralogs encoding 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolase, two phbB paralogs encoding acetoacetylCoA reductase, five phbC paralogs encoding PHB synthase, two phaZ paralogs encoding PHB depolymerase, at least four phaP phasin paralogs for stabilization of PHB granules, and one phaR encoding a putative transcriptional repressor to control phaP expression.


Quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR analyses of RNA samples prepared from cells grown using three different media revealed that PHB accumulation was related neither to redundancy nor expression levels of the phbA, phbB, phbC, and phaZ paralogs for PHB-synthesis and degradation. On the other hand, at least three of the phaP paralogs, involved in the growth and stabilization of PHB granules, were induced under PHB accumulating conditions. Moreover, the most prominently induced phasin exhibited the highest affinity to PHB in vitro; it was able to displace PhaR previously bound to PHB.


These results suggest that PHB accumulation in free-living B. japonicum USDA110 may not be achieved by controlling production and degradation of PHB. In contrast, it is achieved by stabilizing granules autonomously produced in an environment of excess carbon sources together with restricted nitrogen sources.

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