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Role of the K-Antigen Subgroup of Capsular Polysaccharides in the Early Recognition Process Between Rhizobium meliloti and Alfalfa Leaves

January 1997 , Volume 10 , Number  1
Pages  114 - 123

Isabelle Becquart-de Kozak , 1 Bradley L. Reuhs , 2 Dominique Buffard , 1 , 3 Colette Breda , 1 John S. Kim , 2 Robert Esnault , 1 , 3 and Adam Kondorosi 1

1Institut des Sciences Végétales, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Avenue de la Terrasse, F-91198 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France; 2Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, University of Georgia, 220 Riverbend Road, Athens, Georgia 30602 U.S.A.; 3Université Paris 7, F 75005 Paris, France

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Accepted 31 October 1996.

We used a model system to investigate the induction of plant genes by bacterial surface compounds. We have infiltrated alfalfa leaves with wild-type Rhizobium meliloti strain Rm41 and mutant derivatives, which are deficient in the production of exopolysaccharides (EPS), capsular K-polysaccharides (KPS or K-Antigens), or both. We have shown that wild-type R. meliloti was able to induce transcript accumulation of genes encoding enzymes of the iso-flavonoid biosynthetic pathway: chalcone synthase (CHS), chalcone reductase (CHR), and isoflavone reductase (IFR). Kinetics of these transcript accumulations were biphasic, occurring 0.75 to 1.5 h and 6 to 30 h after treatment. The exoB derivative of Rm41 (strain AK631), which is unable to produce either EPS I or EPS II, was still able to induce very rapid (45-min posttreatment) transcript accumulation of CHS and CHR genes. These results suggested that EPS were not involved in this induction. We then tested three R. meliloti fix-23 mutants (strains PP699, PP711, and PP671), which were deficient in KPS production as shown by PAGE and immunoblot analyses. In contrast to the results obtained with the mutant strains, infiltration of alfalfa leaves with purified KPS, isolated from strain AK631, led to a very rapid induction of the CHS and CHR genes. Therefore, we hypothesize that KPS may play a role in the early recognition of rhizobia by the leaf cells.

Additional keywords: bacterial surface polysaccharides, gene expression, Medicago sativa.

© 1997 The American Phytopathological Society