NAD+-dependent malic enzyme of Rhizobium meliloti is required for symbiotic nitrogen fixation
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DEAE-cellulose chromatography of extracts of free-living Rhizobium meliloti cells revealed separate NAD(+)-dependent and NADP(+)-dependent malic enzyme activities. The NAD+ malic enzyme exhibited more activity with NAD+ as cofactor, but also showed some activity with NADP+. The NADP+ malic enzyme only showed activity when NADP+ was supplied as cofactor. Three independent transposon-induced mutants of R. meliloti which lacked NAD+ malic enzyme activity (dme-) but retained NADP+ malic enzyme activity were isolated. In an otherwise wild-type background, the dme mutations did not alter the carbon utilization phenotype; however, nodules induced by these mutants failed to fix N2. Structurally, these nodules appeared to develop like wild-type nodules up to the stage where N2-fixation would normally begin. These results support the proposal that NAD+ malic enzyme, together with pyruvate dehydrogenase, functions in the generation of acetyl-CoA required for TCA cycle function in N2-fixing bacteroids which metabolize C4-dicarboxylic acids supplied by the plant.
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