Insertion and deletion mutations within the nif region of Rhizobium japonicum

Plant Mol Biol. 1984 May;3(3):159-68. doi: 10.1007/BF00016063.


Insertion and deletion mutants were used to characterize a genomic region of Rhizobium japonicum where the nitrogenase structural genes are located on two separate operons nifDK and nifH. In addition to previously described nifD:: Tn5 and nifK:: Tn5 mutations we have now generated, by localized mutagenesis, further Tn5 insertion mutations in the vicinity of nifDK as well as within and adjacent to nifH. The nifD:: Tn5, nifK:: Tn5, and nifH:: Tn5 mutant strains were of the Nod(+) Fix(-) phenotype whereas all other mutants were symbiotically fully effective (Nod(+) Fix(+)). The nifH:: Tn5 mutation was helpful in the identification of the nifH gene product (the dinitrogenase reductase) by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis: due to its polar effect this insertion specifically abolished the synthesis of that protein under microaerobic culture conditions. The ultrastructure of soybean root nodules infected with either the nif (+) wild-type or with the nif (-) (but otherwise isogenic) mutant strains was analyzed by electron microscopy. All contained fully developed bacteroids, but the nitrogen non-fixing mutants showed massive accumulation of PHB.Of Tn5-containing strains, kanamycin sensitive derivatives were obtained which contained deletions. Several classes of deletion mutants were found which, as judged by their physical DNA structure and their phenotypes, allowed the following most important conclusions: (i) deletions lacking both the nifDK and nifH regions indicate linkage between the two operons whereby at least 15 kb of DNA separate them; (ii) one deletion ending upstream from nifH, and lacking only nifDK, indicates that the nifDK operon is located on the 5'-flanking side of the nifH operon; (iii) all deletion mutants are Nod(+) indicating that there are no essential nodulation gnes located between and adjacent to nifDK and nifH.