International Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, CNR, via Marconi 10, 80125 Naples, Italy
A mutant strain (CTNUX23) of Rhizobium etli carrying Tn5 unable to grow with sulfate as the sole sulfur source was isolated and characterized. Sequence analysis showed that Tn5 is inserted into a metZ (O-succinylhomoserine sulfhydrylase)-homologous gene. The CTNUX23 mutant strain had a growth dependency for methionine, although cystathionine or homocysteine, but not homoserine or O-succinylhomoserine, allowed growth of the mutant. RNase protection assays showed that the metZ-like gene had a basal level of expression in methionine- or cysteine-grown cells, which was induced when sulfate or thiosulfate was used. The metZ gene was cloned from the parent wild-type strain, CE3, and the resulting plasmid pAR204 relieved, after transformation, the methionine auxotrophy of both strains CTNUX23 of R. etli and PAO503(metZ) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Unlike strain CE3 or CTNUX23 (pAR204), strain CTNUX23 showed undetectable levels of O-succinylhomoserine sulfhydrylase activity. Strain CTNUX23 was unable to produce flavonoid-inducible lipo-chitin oligosaccharides (Nod factors) or to induce nodules or nodulelike structures on the roots of Phaseolus vulgaris, unless methionine was added to the growth medium. These data and our previous results support the notion that cysteine or glutathione, but not methionine, is supplied by the root cells to bacteria growing inside the plant.