In vitro sulfotransferase activity of Rhizobium meliloti NodH protein: Lipochitooligosaccharide nodulation signals are sulfated after synthesis of the core structure

Michael Schultze, Christian Staehelin, Horst Röhrig, Michael John, Jürgen Schmidt, Éva Kondorosi, Jeff Schell, Ádám Kondorosi

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The Rhizobium common nod gene products NodABC are involved in the synthesis of the core lipochitooligosaccharide (Nod factor) structure, whereas the products of the host-specific nod genes are necessary for diverse structural modifications, which vary in different Rhizobium species. The sulfate group attached to the Rhizobium meliloti Nod signal is necessary for activity on the host plant alfalfa, while its absence renders the Nod factor active on the non-host plant vetch. This substituent is therefore a major determinant of host specificity. The exact biosynthetic pathway of Nod factors has not been fully elucidated. In particular, it is not known why some chemical modifications are introduced with high fidelity whereas others are inaccurate, giving rise to a family of different Nod factor structures produced by a single Rhizobium strain. Using protein extracts and partially purified recombinant NodH protein obtained from Escherichia coli expressing the R. meliloti nodH gene, we demonstrate here NodH-dependent in vitro sulfotransferase activity. Kinetic analyses with Nod factors, chitooligosaccharides, and their deacetylated derivatives revealed that Nod factors are the preferred substrate for the sulfate transfer. Moreover, the tetrameric Nod factor, NodRm-IV, was a better substrate than the trimer, NodRm-III, or the pentamer, NodRm-V. These data suggest that the core lipochitooligosaccharide structure must be synthesized prior to its host- specific modification with a sulfate group. Since in R. meliloti tetrameric Nod factors are the most abundant and the most active ones, high affinity of NodH for the appropriate tetrameric substrate guarantees its modification and thus contributes to the fidelity of host-specific behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2706-2709
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Mar 28 1995



  • Medicago sativa
  • host specificity
  • nod genes
  • nodulation
  • symbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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