A Sinorhizobium meliloti minE mutant has an altered morphology and exhibits defects in legume symbiosis
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Sinorhizobium meliloti differentiates from rod-shaped, free-living cells into pleomorphic, non-dividing, N(2)-fixing bacteroids within alfalfa root nodules. Here, the role of the minCDE genes in bacteroid differentiation and in free-living cell division is examined. Disruption of the minE gene resulted in large, swollen and branched free-living cells, and in symbiosis a minE mutation resulted in a defect in nitrogen fixation with activity reduced by approximately 70 % compared to the wild-type. It has been demonstrated that the minCDE genes form an operon driven by a promoter located 173 bp upstream of minC. The minCDE genes were expressed in free-living cells and in both the infection zone and the symbiotic zone of alfalfa nodules; however, no changes in the free-living cell morphology, growth or symbiotic N(2) fixation were detected as a result of deletion of these genes. Induced production of individual or combinations of Min proteins in S. meliloti altered its rod-shaped cell morphology. Moreover, cell morphologies resulting from the overexpression of the S. meliloti Min proteins in Escherichia coli suggested similar functions for the E. coli and S. meliloti min genes. These data suggest that there is greater redundancy in the roles of cell division genes in S. meliloti compared with E. coli.
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