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Insights into the Noncoding RNome of Nitrogen-Fixing Endosymbiotic α-Proteobacteria

February 2013 , Volume 26 , Number  2
Pages  160 - 167

José I. Jiménez-Zurdo,1 Claudio Valverde,2 and Anke Becker3

1Grupo de Ecología Genética de la Rizosfera, Estación Experimental del Zaidín, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), 18008 Granada, Spain; 2Laboratorio de Bioquímica, Microbiología e Interacciones Biológicas en el Suelo, Departamento de Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, B1876BXD Bernal, Argentina; 3Comparative Genomics Group, LOEWE Center for Synthetic Microbiology (SYNMIKRO), Philipps-Universität Marburg, 35043 Marburg, Germany

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Accepted 13 September 2012.

Symbiotic chronic infection of legumes by rhizobia involves transition of invading bacteria from a free-living environment in soil to an intracellular state as differentiated nitrogen-fixing bacteroids within the nodules elicited in the host plant. The adaptive flexibility demanded by this complex lifestyle is likely facilitated by the large set of regulatory proteins encoded by rhizobial genomes. However, proteins are not the only relevant players in the regulation of gene expression in bacteria. Large-scale high-throughput analysis of prokaryotic genomes is evidencing the expression of an unexpected plethora of small untranslated transcripts (sRNAs) with housekeeping or regulatory roles. sRNAs mostly act in response to environmental cues as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression through protein-assisted base-pairing interactions with target mRNAs. Riboregulation contributes to fine-tune a wide range of bacterial processes which, in intracellular animal pathogens, largely compromise virulence traits. Here, we summarize the incipient knowledge about the noncoding RNome structure of nitrogen-fixing endosymbiotic bacteria as inferred from genome-wide searches for sRNA genes in the alfalfa partner Sinorhizobium meliloti and further comparative genomics analysis. The biology of relevant S. meliloti RNA chaperones (e.g., Hfq) is also reviewed as a first global indicator of the impact of riboregulation in the establishment of the symbiotic interaction.

© 2013 The American Phytopathological Society