argC encodes N-acetyl-gamma-glutamyl phosphate reductase, the enzyme that catalyzes the high-energy-consuming third step in the arginine synthesis pathway. A comparative analysis revealed two translation start sites in argC from Sinorhizobium meliloti. To determine whether both protein versions are synthesized in the organism and their functional role, we obtained genetic constructs with one (1S) or two (2S) start sites, with promoters of low (pspeB) or high (plac) transcriptional rate. The constructs were transferred to the S. meliloti 1021 derivative argC mutant strain. Both protein versions were found in the free-living proteomes, but only ArgC 1S showed post-translational modification. Expression levels from argC 1S were five times higher than those of 2S, when transcribed by plac, and in concordance, its protein activity was 3-fold greater. The overexpression of both versions under plac delayed cellular growth. Inoculation of Medicago sativa plants with the S. meliloti strain harboring the argC 1S under plac induced nodulation but not nitrogen fixation. However, the strain with the argC 2S under the same promoter had a positive phenotype. Overproduction of ArgC protein for the synthesis of arginine induced physiological and symbiotic effects.
Keywords: Sinorhizobium meliloti; arginine; physiology; rhizobia; symbiosis.
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