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Sinorhizobium meliloti Regulator MucR Couples Exopolysaccharide Synthesis and Motility

November 2008 , Volume 21 , Number  11
Pages  1,498 - 1,509

Christelle Bahlawane,1 Matthew McIntosh,2 Elizaveta Krol,2 and Anke Becker2

1Institute for Genome Research and Systems Biology, Center for Biotechnology, Bielefeld University, 33594 Bielefeld, Germany; 2Institute of Biology III, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, Schänzlestr. 1, 79104 Freiburg, Germany


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Accepted 25 July 2008.

In order to enter symbiosis with its legume partner, Sinorhizobium meliloti requires regulatory systems for the appropriate responses to its environment. For example, motility is required for the chemotactic movement of bacteria toward the compounds released by its host, and exopolysaccharides (EPS) are required for bacterial attachment to the root or for invasion of the infection thread. Previous research has shown that ExoR/ExoS/ChvI as well as the ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system inversely regulate both motility and EPS production, although the regulation mechanisms were unknown. We were able to attribute the ExpR-mediated regulation of motility to the ability of ExpR to bind a DNA sequence upstream of visN when activated by N-acyl-homoserine lactone. Furthermore, MucR, previously characterized as a regulator of EPS production, also affected motility. MucR inhibited expression of rem encoding an activator of motility gene expression and, consequently, the expression of Rem-regulated genes such as flaF and flgG. Binding of MucR to the rem promoter region was demonstrated and a sequence motif similar to the previously identified MucR binding consensus was identified within this region. The swarming ability of S. meliloti Rm2011 was shown to depend on a functional ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system and the production of both flagella and EPS. Finally, we propose a model for the coordination of motility and EPS synthesis in S. meliloti.



© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society