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A Role for Bradyrhizobium japonicum ECF16 Sigma Factor EcfS in the Formation of a Functional Symbiosis with Soybean

January 2012 , Volume 25 , Number  1
Pages  119 - 128

S. B. Stockwell,1 L. Reutimann,2 and M. L. Guerinot1

1Biological Sciences Department, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, U.S.A.; 2ETH, Institute of Microbiology, Zurich, Switzerland

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Accepted 18 August 2011.

Alternative sigma (σ) factors, proteins that recruit RNA polymerase core enzyme to target promoters, are one mechanism by which bacteria transcriptionally regulate groups of genes in response to environmental stimuli. A class of σ70 proteins, termed extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors, are involved in cellular processes such as bacterial stress responses and virulence. Here, we describe an ECF16 σ factor, EcfS (Blr4928) from the gram-negative soil bacterium Bradyrhizobium japonicum USDA110, that plays a critical role in the establishment of a functional symbiosis with soybean. Nonpolar insertional mutants of ecfS form immature nodules that do not fix nitrogen, a defect that can be successfully complemented by expression of ecfS. Overexpression of the cocistronic gene, tmrS (blr4929), phenocopies the ecfS mutant in planta and, therefore, we propose that TmrS is a negative regulator of EcfS, a determination consistent with the prediction that it encodes an anti-σ factor. Microarray analysis of the ecfS mutant and tmrS overexpressor was used to identify 40 transcripts misregulated in both strains. These transcripts primarily encode proteins of unknown and transport-related functions and may provide insights into the symbiotic defect in these strains.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society