Cell Growth Inhibition upon Deletion of Four Toxin-Antitoxin Loci from the Megaplasmids of Sinorhizobium meliloti Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Toxin and antitoxin (TA) gene pairs are addiction systems that are present in many microbial genomes. Sinorhizobium meliloti is an N2-fixing bacterial symbiont of alfalfa and other leguminous plants, and its genome consists of three large replicons, a circular chromosome (3.7 Mb) and the megaplasmids pSymA (1.4 Mb) and pSymB (1.7 Mb). S. meliloti carries 211 predicted type II TA genes, each encoding a toxin or an antitoxin. We constructed defined deletion strains that collectively removed the entire pSymA and pSymB megaplasmids except for their oriV regions. Of approximately 100 TA genes on pSymA and pSymB, we identified four whose loss was associated with cell death or stasis unless copies of the genes were supplied in trans. Orthologs of three of these loci have been characterized in other organisms (relB/E [sma0471/sma0473], Fic [DOC] [sma2105], and VapC [PIN] [orf2230/sma2231]), and this report contains the first experimental proof that RES/Xre (smb21127/smb21128) loci can function as a TA system. Transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis did not reveal transcriptional differences between the TA systems to account for why deletion of the four "active" systems resulted in cell toxicity. These data suggest that severe cell growth phenotypes result from the loss of a few TA systems and that loss of most TA systems may result in more subtle phenotypes. These four TA systems do not appear to play a direct role in the S. meliloti-alfalfa symbiosis, as strains lacking these TA systems had a symbiotic N2 fixation phenotype that was indistinguishable from the wild type.

publication date

  • February 15, 2014