Leguminous plants and bacteria from the family Rhizobiaceae form a symbiotic relationship, which culminates in novel plant structures called root nodules. The indeterminate symbiosis that forms between Sinorhizobium meliloti and alfalfa requires biosynthesis of Nod factor, a β-1,4-linked lipochitooligosaccharide that contains an essential 6-O-sulfate modification. S. meliloti also produces sulfated cell surface polysaccharides, such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The physiological function of sulfated cell surface polysaccharides is unclear, although mutants of S. meliloti with reduced LPS sulfation exhibit symbiotic abnormalities. Using a bioinformatic approach, we identified a homolog of the S. meliloti carbohydrate sulfotransferase, LpsS, in Mesorhizobium loti. M. loti participates in a determinate symbiosis with the legume Lotus japonicus. We showed that M. loti produces sulfated forms of LPS and capsular polysaccharide (KPS). To investigate the physiological function of sulfated polysaccharides in M. loti, we identified and disabled an M. loti homolog of the sulfate-activating genes, nodPQ, which resulted in undetectable amounts of sulfated cell surface polysaccharides and a cysteine auxotrophy. We concomitantly disabled an M. loti cysH homolog, which disrupted cysteine biosynthesis without reducing cell surface polysaccharide sulfation. Our experiments demonstrated that the nodPQ mutant, but not the cysH mutant, showed an altered KPS structure and a diminished ability to elicit nodules on its host legume, Lotus japonicus. Interestingly, the nodPQ mutant also exhibited a more rapid growth rate and appeared to outcompete wild-type M. loti for nodule colonization. These results suggest that sulfated cell surface polysaccharides are required for optimum nodule formation but limit growth rate and nodule colonization in M. loti.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology