SUMMARY: Rhizopine (~-3-O-methyl-scy//o-inosamine) is a symbiosis-specif ic compound found in alfalfa nodules induced by specific Sinorhilobium meliloti strains. It has been postulated that rhizobial strains able to synthesize and catabolize rhizopine gain a competitive advantage in the rhizosphere. The pathway of rhizopine degradation is analysed here. Since rhizopine is an inositol derivative, it was tested whether inositol catabolism is involved in rhizopine utilization. A genetic locus required for the catabolism of inositol as sole carbon source was cloned from S. meliloti. This locus was delimited by transposon Tn5 mutagenesis and its DNA sequence was determined. Based on DNA similarity studies and enzyme assays, this genetic region was shown to encode an S, meliloti myo-inositol dehydrogenase. Strains that harboured a mutation in the myo-inositol dehydrogenase gene (idhA) did not display myo-inositol dehydrogenase activity, were unable to utilize myo-inositol as sole carbodenergy source, and were unable to catabolize rhizopine. Thus, myo-inositol dehydrogenase activity is essential for rhizopine utilization in s. meliloti.


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