Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology vol:98 issue:10 pages:4589-4602
Rhizobia are soil bacteria that can fix nitrogen in symbiosis with leguminous plants or exist free-living in the rhizosphere. Crucial to their complex lifestyle is the ability to sense and respond to diverse environmental stimuli, requiring elaborate signaling pathways. In the majority of bacteria, the nucleotide-based second messenger cyclic diguanosine monophosphate or c-di-GMP is involved in signal transduction. Surprisingly little is known about the importance of c-di-GMP signaling in rhizobia. We have analyzed the genome sequences of six well studied type species (Bradyrhizobium japonicum, Mesorhizobium loti, Rhizobium etli, Rhizobium leguminosarum, Sinorhizobium fredii and Sinorhizobium meliloti) for proteins possibly involved in c-di-GMP signaling based on the presence of four domains: GGDEF (diguanylate cyclase); EAL and HD-GYP (phosphodiesterase); and PilZ (c-di-GMP sensor). We find that rhizobia possess a high number of these proteins. Conservation analysis suggests that c-di-GMP signaling proteins modulate species-specific pathways rather than ancient rhizobia-specific processes. Two hybrid GGDEF-EAL proteins were selected for functional analysis, R. etli RHE_PD00105 (CdgA) and RHE_PD00137 (CdgB). Expression of cdgA and cdgB is repressed by the alarmone (p)ppGpp. cdgB is significantly expressed on plant roots and free-living. Mutation of cdgA, cdgB or both does not affect plant root colonization, nitrogen fixation capacity, biofilm formation, motility, and exopolysaccharide production. However, heterologous expression of the individual GGDEF and EAL domains of each protein in Escherichia coli strongly suggests that CdgA and CdgB are bifunctional proteins, possessing both diguanylate cyclase and phosphodiesterase activity. Taken together, our results provide a platform for future studies of c-di-GMP signaling in rhizobia.