Second symbiotic megaplasmid in Rhizobium meliloti carrying exopolysaccharide and thiamine synthesis genes.
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Using physical and genetic data, we have demonstrated that Rhizobium meliloti SU47 has a symbiotic megaplasmid, pRmeSU47b, in addition to the previously described nod-nif megaplasmid pRmeSU47a. This plasmid includes four loci involved in exopolysaccharide (exo) synthesis as well as two loci involved in thiamine biosynthesis. Mutations at the exo loci have previously been shown to result in the formation of nodules which lack infection threads (Inf-) and fail to fix nitrogen (Fix-). Thus, both megaplasmids contain genes involved in the formation of nitrogen-fixing root nodules. Mutations at two other exo loci were not located on either megaplasmid. To mobilize the megaplasmids, the oriT of plasmid RK2 was inserted into them. On alfalfa, Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains containing pRmeSU47a induced marked root hair curling with no infection threads and Fix- nodules, as reported by others. This plant phenotype was not observed to change with A. tumefaciens strains containing both pRmeSU47a and pRmeSU47b megaplasmids, and strains containing pRmeSU47b alone failed to curl root hairs or form nodules.
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