The determinants necessary for adaptation to high NaCl concentrations and competition for nodule occupancy in Sinorhizobium meliloti were investigated genetically. Mutations in fabG as well as smc02909 (transmembrane transglycosylase), trigger factor (tig) and smc00717 (probably ftsE) gave rise to strains that were unable to tolerate high salt and were uncompetitive for nodule occupancy relative to the wild-type. Moreover exoF1, exoA and pgm determinants were determined to be necessary for strain Rm1021 to survive high NaCl and/or MgCl(2) concentrations. The introduction of an expR(+) allele was capable of suppressing the Mg(2+) sensitivity associated with the exoF1, but not the exoA, mutation in a manner independent of exopolysaccharide II (EPS II)-associated mucoidy. The results also show that the EPS II-associated mucoid phenotype was affected by either Mg(2+)or K(+), but not by Li(+), Ca(2+), or high osmolarity.