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Knockout of an Azorhizobial dTDP-L-Rhamnose Synthase Affects Lipopolysaccharide and Extracellular Polysaccharide Production and Disables Symbiosis with Sesbania rostrata

July 2001 , Volume 14 , Number  7
Pages  857 - 866

Mengsheng Gao , Wim D'Haeze , Riet De Rycke , Beata Wolucka , and Marcelle Holsters

Vakgroep Moleculaire Genetica, Departement Plantengenetica, Vlaams Interuniversitair Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB), Universiteit Gent, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, B-9000 Gent, Belgium

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Accepted 19 March 2001.

A nonpolar mutation was made in the oac2 gene of Azorhizobium caulinodans. oac2 is an ortholog of the Salmonella typhimurium rfbD gene that encodes a dTDP-L-rhamnose synthase. The knockout of oac2 changed the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) pattern and affected the extracellular polysaccharide production but had no effect on bacterial hydrophobicity. Upon hot phenol extraction, the wild-type LPS partitioned in the phenol phase. The LPS fraction of ORS571-oac2 partitioned in the water phase and had a reduced rhamnose content and truncated LPS molecules on the basis of faster migration in detergent gel electrophoresis. Strain ORS571-oac2 induced ineffective nodule-like structures on Sesbania rostrata. There was no clear demarcation between central and peripheral tissues, and neither leghemoglobin nor bacteroids were present. Light and electron microscopy revealed that the mutant bacteria were retained in enlarged, thick-walled infection threads. Infection centers emitted a blue autofluorescence under UV light. The data indicate that rhamnose synthesis is important for the production of surface carbohydrates that are required to sustain the compatible interaction between A. caulinodans and S. rostrata.

© 2001 The American Phytopathological Society