The quorum-sensing system in a plant bacterium Mesorhizobium huakuii affects growth rate and symbiotic nodulation

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Mesorhizobium huakuii is a free-living bacterium which is capable of establishing a specific symbiotic relationship with Astragalus sinicus, an important winter green manure widely used in Eastern Asia, allowing for nitrogen fixing during this process. Previous studies demonstrate that M. huakuii produces quorum-sensing molecules at high cell density and quorum sensing plays a role in biofilm formations. In this study, we isolated and characterized two quorum-sensing deficient mutants in M. huakuii. Analysis of the flanking region of transposon insertions indicated that autoinducer synthase related genes are not homologous to acyl homoserine lactone (AHL) synthase genes that are shared among many Gram-negative bacteria, but related to peptide synthesis, indicating that M. huakuii quorum-sensing signals are distinct from AHLs. Compared with the wild-type strains, these quorum-sensing deficient mutants promoted their growth rate and were defective in nodule formation on host plants, indicative of a critical role of quorum sensing in M. huakuii during the host-bacterium symbiotic interaction.

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