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J Bacteriol. 1998 Jan;180(1):20-6.

Succinoglycan production by Rhizobium meliloti is regulated through the ExoS-ChvI two-component regulatory system.

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  • 1Biology Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


The Rhizobium meliloti exoS gene is involved in regulating the production of succinoglycan, which plays a crucial role in the establishment of the symbiosis between R. meliloti Rm1021 and its host plant, alfalfa. The exoS96::Tn5 mutation causes the upregulation of the succinoglycan biosynthetic genes, thereby resulting in the overproduction of succinoglycan. Through cloning and sequencing, we found that the exoS gene is a close homolog of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens chvG gene, which has been proposed to encode the sensor protein of the ChvG-ChvI two-component regulatory system, a member of the EnvZ-OmpR family. Further analyses revealed the existence of a newly discovered A. tumefaciens chvI homolog located just upstream of the R. meliloti exoS gene. R. meliloti ChvI may serve as the response regulator of ExoS in a two-component regulatory system. By using ExoS-specific antibodies, it was found that the ExoS protein cofractionated with membrane proteins, suggesting that it is located in the cytoplasmic membrane. By using the same antibodies, it was shown that the exoS96::Tn5 allele encodes an N-terminal truncated derivative of ExoS. The cytoplasmic histidine kinase domain of ExoS was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified, as was the R. meliloti ChvI protein. The ChvI protein autophosphorylated in the presence of acetylphosphate, and the ExoS cytoplasmic domain fragment autophosphorylated at a histidine residue in the presence of ATP. The ChvI protein was phosphorylated in the presence of ATP only when the histidine kinase domain of ExoS was also present. We propose a model for regulation of succinoglycan production by R. meliloti through the ExoS-ChvI two-component regulatory system.

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