Identification and characterization of a NaCl-responsive genetic locus involved in survival during desiccation in Sinorhizobium meliloti

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Sep;79(18):5693-700. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01037-13. Epub 2013 Jul 12.


The Rhizobiaceae are a bacterial family of enormous agricultural importance due to the ability of its members to fix atmospheric nitrogen in an intimate relationship with plants. Their survival as naturally occurring soil bacteria in agricultural soils as well as popular seed inocula is affected directly by drought and salinity. Survival after desiccation in the presence of NaCl is enabled by underlying genetic mechanisms in the model organism Sinorhizobium meliloti 1021. Since salt stress parallels a loss in water activity, the identification of NaCl-responsive loci may identify loci involved in survival during desiccation. This approach enabled identification of the loci asnO and ngg by their reduced ability to grow on increased NaCl concentrations, likely due to their inability to produce the osmoprotectant N-acetylglutaminylglutamine (NAGGN). In addition, the mutant harboring ngg::Tn5luxAB was affected in its ability to survive desiccation and responded to osmotic stress. The desiccation sensitivity may have been due to secondary functions of Ngg (N-acetylglutaminylglutamine synthetase)-like cell wall metabolism as suggested by the presence of a d-alanine-d-alanine ligase (dAla-dAla) domain and by sensitivity of the mutant to β-lactam antibiotics. asnO::Tn5luxAB is expressed during the stationary phase under normal growth conditions. Amino acid sequence similarity to enzymes producing β-lactam inhibitors and increased resistance to β-lactam antibiotics may indicate that asnO is involved in the production of a β-lactam inhibitor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Desiccation*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genetic Loci*
  • Microbial Viability*
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Osmotic Pressure*
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / genetics
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / growth & development
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / metabolism
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / physiology*
  • Sodium Chloride / toxicity*
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Sodium Chloride