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J Bacteriol. 1987 Apr;169(4):1423-32.

Identification and characterization of the Rhizobium meliloti ntrC gene: R. meliloti has separate regulatory pathways for activation of nitrogen fixation genes in free-living and symbiotic cells.


We show here that Rhizobium meliloti, the nitrogen-fixing endosymbiont of alfalfa (Medicago sativa), has a regulatory gene that is structurally homologous to previously characterized ntrC genes in enteric bacteria. DNA sequence analysis showed that R. meliloti ntrC is homologous to previously sequenced ntrC genes from Klebsiella pneumoniae and Bradyrhizobium sp. (Parasponia) and that an ntrB-like gene is situated directly upstream from R. meliloti ntrC. Similar to its counterparts in K. pneumoniae and Escherichia coli, R. meliloti ntrC is expressed when the cells are grown in nitrogen-limiting media. In addition, R. meliloti ntrC is required for growth on media containing nitrate as the sole nitrogen source and for the ex planta transcription of several R. meliloti nif genes. On the other hand, root nodules elicited by R. meliloti ntrC mutants fix nitrogen as well as nodules elicited by wild-type R. meliloti. These latter results indicate that R. meliloti has separate regulatory pathways for activating nif gene expression ex planta and during symbiotic nitrogen fixation.

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