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Differential Regulation of fixN-Reiterated Genes in Rhizobium etli by a Novel fixL—fixK Cascade

December 2000 , Volume 13 , Number  12
Pages  1,283 - 1,292

Lourdes Girard , 1 Susana Brom , 1 Araceli Dávalos , 1 Oswaldo López , 2 Mario Soberón , 2 and David Romero 1

1Programa de Genética Molecular de Plásmidos Bacterianos, Centro de Investigación sobre Fijación de Nitrógeno, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ap. Postal 565-A, Cuernavaca, Morelos, 62271, México; 2Departamento de Biología Molecular de Plantas, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ap. Postal 510-3, Cuernavaca, Morelos, 62271, México

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Accepted 10 August 2000.

Among the complexities in the regulation of nitrogen fixation in the Rhizobiaceae are reiteration of regulatory components as well as variant roles for each component between species. For Rhizobium etli CFN42, we reported that the symbiotic plasmid (pCFN42d) contains a key regulatory gene (fixKd) and genes for a symbiotic cytochrome oxidase (fixNOQPd). Here we discuss the occurrence of reiteration of these genes (fixKf and fixNOQPf) and the finding of an unusual fixL homolog on a plasmid previously considered cryptic (pCFN42f). The structure of the deduced FixL polypeptide is suggestive of a fusion of the receiver and transmitter modules of a two-component regulatory system as described in R. leguminosarum bv. viciae VF39. Gene fusion analysis, coupled with mutation of each regulatory element, revealed that free-living expression of FixKf was dependent fully on FixL. In contrast, synthesis of FixKd was not detected under the conditions tested. The FixKf protein is needed for microaerobic expression of both fixN reiterations, whereas the FixKd protein appears to be dispensable. Interestingly, expression of the fixN reiterations exhibits a differential dependence for FixL, where transcription of fixNf was suppressed in the absence of FixL but expression of fixNd still showed significant levels. This suggests the existence of a FixL-independent mechanism for expression of the fixNd reiteration. Surprisingly, mutations in fixL, fixKd, or fixKf (either singly or in combination) did not alter symbiotic effectiveness. A mutation in fixNd (but not in fixNf) was, however, severely affected, indicating a differential role for these reiterations in nitrogen fixation.

Additional keywords: Rhizobium—legume symbiosis.

© 2000 The American Phytopathological Society