The Sinorhizobium meliloti stringent response affects multiple aspects of symbiosis

Mol Microbiol. 2002 Mar;43(5):1115-27. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2002.02826.x.


Sinorhizobium meliloti and host legumes enter into a nitrogen-fixing, symbiotic relationship triggered by an exchange of signals between bacteria and plant. S. meliloti produces Nod factor, which elicits the formation of nodules on plant roots, and succinoglycan, an exopolysaccharide that allows for bacterial invasion and colonization of the host. The biosynthesis of these molecules is well defined, but the specific regulation of these compounds is not completely understood. Bacteria control complex regulatory networks by the production of ppGpp, the effector molecule of the stringent response, which induces physiological change in response to adverse growth conditions and can also control bacterial development and virulence. Through detailed analysis of an S. meliloti mutant incapable of producing ppGpp, we show that the stringent response is required for nodule formation and regulates the production of succinoglycan. Although it remains unknown whether these phenotypes are connected, we have isolated suppressor strains that restore both defects and potentially identify key downstream regulatory genes. These results indicate that the S. meliloti stringent response has roles in both succinoglycan production and nodule formation and, more importantly, that control of bacterial physiology in response to the plant and surrounding environment is critical to the establishment of a successful symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Guanosine Tetraphosphate / metabolism
  • Ligases / genetics*
  • Ligases / metabolism
  • Medicago sativa / microbiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / genetics
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / growth & development
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / pathogenicity*
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / physiology*
  • Symbiosis*
  • Virulence


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Guanosine Tetraphosphate
  • succinoglycan
  • Ligases
  • guanosine 3',5'-polyphosphate synthetases

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF306550