Insights into the noncoding RNome of nitrogen-fixing endosymbiotic α-proteobacteria

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2013 Feb;26(2):160-7. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-07-12-0186-CR.


Symbiotic chronic infection of legumes by rhizobia involves transition of invading bacteria from a free-living environment in soil to an intracellular state as differentiated nitrogen-fixing bacteroids within the nodules elicited in the host plant. The adaptive flexibility demanded by this complex lifestyle is likely facilitated by the large set of regulatory proteins encoded by rhizobial genomes. However, proteins are not the only relevant players in the regulation of gene expression in bacteria. Large-scale high-throughput analysis of prokaryotic genomes is evidencing the expression of an unexpected plethora of small untranslated transcripts (sRNAs) with housekeeping or regulatory roles. sRNAs mostly act in response to environmental cues as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression through protein-assisted base-pairing interactions with target mRNAs. Riboregulation contributes to fine-tune a wide range of bacterial processes which, in intracellular animal pathogens, largely compromise virulence traits. Here, we summarize the incipient knowledge about the noncoding RNome structure of nitrogen-fixing endosymbiotic bacteria as inferred from genome-wide searches for sRNA genes in the alfalfa partner Sinorhizobium meliloti and further comparative genomics analysis. The biology of relevant S. meliloti RNA chaperones (e.g., Hfq) is also reviewed as a first global indicator of the impact of riboregulation in the establishment of the symbiotic interaction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alphaproteobacteria / genetics
  • Alphaproteobacteria / physiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genomics
  • Host Factor 1 Protein / genetics
  • Medicago sativa / microbiology*
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / genetics
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / metabolism
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics*
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / genetics
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / physiology
  • Symbiosis


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Host Factor 1 Protein
  • RNA, Small Untranslated
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • RNA-Binding Proteins