Structural modifications in Rhizobium meliloti Nod factors influence their stability against hydrolysis by root chitinases

Christian Staehelin, Michael Schultze, Éva Kondorosi, Robert B. Mellor, Thomas Boiler, Adam Kondorosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

122 Citations (Scopus)


Acylated chitooligosaccharide signals (Nod factors) trigger the development of root nodules on leguminous plants and play an important role in determining host specificity in the Rhizobium‐plant symbiosis. Here, the ability of plant chitinases to hydrolyze different Nod factors and the potential significance of the structural modifications of Nod factors in stabilizing them against enzymatic inactivation were investigated. Incubation of the sulfated Nod factors of Rhizobium meliloti, NodRm‐IV(S) and NodRm‐V(S), as well as their desulfated derivatives NodRm‐IV and NodRm‐V, with purified chitinases from the roots of the host plant Medicago and the nonhost plant Vicia resulted in the release of the acylated lipotrisaccharide NodRm‐III from NodRm‐V, NodRm‐IV and NodRm‐V(S), whereas NodRm‐IV(S) was completely resistant to digestion by both chitinases. Kinetic analysis showed that the structural parameters determining host specificity, the length of the oligosaccharide chain, the acylation at the nonreducing end and the sulfatation at the reducing end of the lipooligosaccharide, influence the stability of the molecule against degradation by chitinases. When the Nod factors were incubated in the presence of intact roots of Medicago, as well as of Vicia, the acylated lipotrisaccharide was similarly released in vivo from all Nod factors except NodRm‐IV(S). In addition, a dimer‐forming activity was observed in intact roots which also cleaved NodRm‐IV(S). This activity was much greater in Medicago than in Vicia and increased upon incubation. The initial overall degradation rate of the Nod factors on Medicago was inversely correlated with their biological activities on Medicago roots. These results open the possibility that the activity of Nod factors on Medicago may partly be determined by the action of chitinases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-330
Number of pages12
JournalThe Plant Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Structural modifications in Rhizobium meliloti Nod factors influence their stability against hydrolysis by root chitinases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this