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J Bacteriol. 1983 Dec;156(3):1025-34.

Molecular characterization of Tn5-induced symbiotic (Fix-) mutants of Rhizobium meliloti.


To investigate the expression of specific symbiotic genes during the development of nitrogen-fixing root nodules, we conducted a systematic analysis of nodule-specific proteins and RNAs produced after the inoculation of alfalfa roots with a series of Rhizobium meliloti mutants generated by site-directed transposon Tn5 mutagenesis. The mutagenized region of the Rhizobium genome covered approximately 10 kilobases and included the region encoding the nitrogenase polypeptides. All mutant strains that were analyzed produced nodules, but with several strains the nodules failed to fix nitrogen (Nod+ Fix- phenotype). All Fix- nodules accumulated reduced levels of the host plant protein leghemoglobin. In addition, Tn5 insertions in the nitrogenase operon (nifHDK genes) eliminated some or all of the nitrogenase polypeptides and nifHDK RNA transcripts, depending on the site of insertion. Finally, mutation of a region approximately 5 kilobases upstream from the nitrogenase operon resulted in the absence of all three nitrogenase polypeptides and their corresponding RNAs, suggesting that this region may serve a regulatory function during nitrogen fixation. The studies presented here indicate that site-directed mutagenesis coupled with biochemical analysis of nodule proteins and RNAs allows the identification of products of specific gene regions as well as the assignment of specific functions to previously unidentified regions of the R. meliloti genome.

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