Rhizobium meliloti mutants that overproduce the R. meliloti acidic calcofluor-binding exopolysaccharide.

D. Doherty, J. A. Leigh, J. Glazebrook, G. C. Walker

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The acidic Calcofluor-binding exopolysaccharide of Rhizobium meliloti Rm1021 plays one or more critical roles in nodule invasion and possibly in nodule development. Two loci, exoR and exoS, that affect the regulation of synthesis of this exopolysaccharide were identified by screening for derivatives of strain Rm1021 that formed mucoid colonies that fluoresced extremely brightly under UV light when grown on medium containing Calcofluor. The exopolysaccharide produced in large quantities by the exoR95::Tn5 and exoS96::Tn5 strains was indistinguishable from that produced by the parental strain Rm1021, and its synthesis required the function of at least the exoA, exoB, and exoF genes. Both the exoR and exoS loci were located on the chromosome, and the exo96::Tn5 mutation was 84% linked to the trp-33 mutation by phi M12 transduction. Synthesis of the Calcofluor-binding exopolysaccharide by strain Rm1021 was greatly stimulated by starvation for ammonia. In contrast, the exoR95::Tn5 mutant produced high levels of exopolysaccharide regardless of the presence or absence of ammonia in the medium. The exoS96::Tn5 mutant produced elevated amounts of exopolysaccharide in the presence of ammonia, but higher amounts were observed after starvation for ammonia. The presence of either mutation increased the level of expression of exoF::TnphoA and exoP::TnphoA fusions (TnphoA is Tn5 IS50L::phoA). Analyses of results obtained when alfalfa seedlings were inoculated with the exoR95::Tn5 strain indicated that the mutant strain could not invade nodules. However, pseudorevertants that retained the original exoR95::Tn5 mutation but acquired unlinked suppressors so that they produced an approximately normal amount of exopolysaccharide were able to invade nodules and fix nitrogens. The exoS95::Tn5 strain formed Fix+ nodules, although some minor variability was observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4249-4256
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1988


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