Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia
Soybean peribacteroid membrane (PBM) proteins were isolated from nitrogen-fixing root nodules and subjected to N-terminal sequencing. Sequence data from 17 putative PBM proteins were obtained. Six of these proteins are homologous to proteins of known function. These include three chaperones (HSP60, BiP [HSP70], and PDI) and two proteases (a serine and a thiol protease), all of which are involved in some aspect of protein processing in plants. The PBM homologs of these proteins may play roles in protein translocation, folding, maturation, or degradation in symbiosomes. Two proteins are homologous to known, nodule-specific proteins from soybean, nodulin 53b and nodulin 26B. Although the function of these nodulins is unknown, nodulin 53b has independently been shown to be associated with the PBM. All of the eight proteins with identifiable homologs are likely to be peripheral rather than integral membrane proteins. Possible reasons for this apparent bias are discussed. The identification of homologs of HSP70 and HSP60 associated with the PBM is the first evidence that the molecular machinery for co- or post-translational import of cytoplasmic proteins is present in symbiosomes. This has important implications for the biogenesis of this unique, nitrogen-fixing organelle.