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Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae forms nitrogen-fixing nodules on several legumes, including pea (Pisum sativum) and vetch (Vicia cracca), and has been widely used as a model to study nodule biochemistry. To understand the complex biochemical and developmental changes undergone by R. leguminosarum bv. viciae during bacteroid development, microarray experiments were first performed with cultured bacteria grown on a variety of carbon substrates (glucose, pyruvate, succinate, inositol, acetate, and acetoacetate) and then compared to bacteroids. Bacteroid metabolism is essentially that of dicarboxylate-grown cells (i.e., induction of dicarboxylate transport, gluconeogenesis and alanine synthesis, and repression of sugar utilization). The decarboxylating arm of the tricarboxylic acid cycle is highly induced, as is gamma-aminobutyrate metabolism, particularly in bacteroids from early (7-day) nodules. To investigate bacteroid development, gene expression in bacteroids was analyzed at 7, 15, and 21 days postinoculation of peas. This revealed that bacterial rRNA isolated from pea, but not vetch, is extensively processed in mature bacteroids. In early development (7 days), there were large changes in the expression of regulators, exported and cell surface molecules, multidrug exporters, and heat and cold shock proteins. fix genes were induced early but continued to increase in mature bacteroids, while nif genes were induced strongly in older bacteroids. Mutation of 37 genes that were strongly upregulated in mature bacteroids revealed that none were essential for nitrogen fixation. However, screening of 3,072 mini-Tn5 mutants on peas revealed previously uncharacterized genes essential for nitrogen fixation. These encoded a potential magnesium transporter, an AAA domain protein, and proteins involved in cytochrome synthesis.

Original publication




Journal article


J Bacteriol

Publication Date





4002 - 4014


Bacterial Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Peas, Rhizobium leguminosarum, Root Nodules, Plant, Species Specificity, Symbiosis, Transcription, Genetic, Vicia