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The Sinorhizobium meliloti EmrR Regulator Is Required for Efficient Colonization of Medicago sativa Root Nodules

April 2014 , Volume 27 , Number  4
Pages  388 - 399

Mário R. Santos,1 Andreia T. Marques,1 Jörg D. Becker,2 and Leonilde M. Moreira1,3

1IBB-Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre for Biological and Chemical Engineering, Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), Lisbon, Portugal; 2Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da Quinta Grande No. 6, 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal; 3Department of Bioengineering, IST, University of Lisbon, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal

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Accepted 19 December 2013.

The nitrogen-fixing bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti must adapt to diverse conditions encountered during its symbiosis with leguminous plants. We characterized a new symbiotically relevant gene, emrR (SMc03169), whose product belongs to the TetR family of repressors and is divergently transcribed from emrAB genes encoding a putative major facilitator superfamily–type efflux pump. An emrR deletion mutant produced more succinoglycan, displayed increased cell-wall permeability, and exhibited higher tolerance to heat shock. It also showed lower tolerance to acidic conditions, a reduced production of siderophores, and lower motility and biofilm formation. The simultaneous deletion of emrA and emrR genes restored the mentioned traits to the wild-type phenotype, except for survival under heat shock, which was lower than that displayed by the wild-type strain. Furthermore, the ΔemrR mutant as well as the double ΔemrAR mutant was impaired in symbiosis with Medicago sativa; it formed fewer nodules and competed poorly with the wild-type strain for nodule colonization. Expression profiling of the ΔemrR mutant showed decreased expression of genes involved in Nod-factor and rhizobactin biosynthesis and in stress responses. Expression of genes directing the biosynthesis of succinoglycan and other polysaccharides were increased. EmrR may therefore be involved in a regulatory network targeting membrane and cell wall modifications in preparation for colonization of root hairs during symbiosis.

© 2014 The American Phytopathological Society