The production of exopolysaccharide (EPS) was shown to be required for the infection process by rhizobia that induce the formation of indeterminate nodules on the roots of leguminous host plants. In Sinorhizobium meliloti (also known as Rhizobium meliloti) Rm41, a capsular polysaccharide (KPS) analogous to the group II K antigens of Escherichia coli can replace EPS during symbiotic nodule development and serve as an attachment site for the strain-specific bacteriophage φ16-3. The rkpA to -J genes in the chromosomal rkp-1 region code for proteins that are involved in the synthesis, modification, and transfer of an as-yet-unknown lipophilic molecule which might function as a specific lipid carrier during KPS biosynthesis. Here we report that with a phage φ16-3-resistant population obtained after random Tn5 mutagenesis, we have identified novel mutants impaired in KPS production by genetic complementation and biochemical studies. The mutations represent two novel loci, designated the rkp-2 and rkp-3 regions, which are required for the synthesis of rhizobial KPS. The rkp-2 region harbors two open reading frames (ORFs) organized in monocistronic transcription units. Although both genes are required for normal lipopolysaccharide production, only the second one, designated rkpK, is involved in the synthesis of KPS. We have demonstrated that RkpK possesses UDP-glucose dehydrogenase activity, while the protein product of ORF1 might function as a UDP-glucuronic acid epimerase.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology