RNA-Seq Provides New Insights into the Gene Expression Changes in Azoarcus olearius BH72 under Nitrogen-Deficient and Replete Conditions beyond the Nitrogen Fixation Process

Microorganisms. 2021 Sep 6;9(9):1888. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9091888.


Azoarcus olearius BH72 is an endophyte capable of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) and of supplying nitrogen to its host plant. Our previous microarray approach provided insights into the transcriptome of strain BH72 under N2-fixation in comparison to ammonium-grown conditions, which already indicated the induction of genes not related to the BNF process. Due to the known limitations of the technique, we might have missed additional differentially expressed genes (DEGs). Thus, we used directional RNA-Seq to better comprehend the transcriptional landscape under these growth conditions. RNA-Seq detected almost 24% of the annotated genes to be regulated, twice the amount identified by microarray. In addition to confirming entire regulated operons containing known DEGs, the new approach detected the induction of genes involved in carbon metabolism and flagellar and twitching motility. This may support N2-fixation by increasing energy production and by finding suitable microaerobic niches. On the other hand, energy expenditures were reduced by suppressing translation and vitamin biosynthesis. Nonetheless, strain BH72 does not appear to be content with N2-fixation but is primed for alternative economic N-sources, such as nitrate, urea or amino acids; a strong gene induction of machineries for their uptake and assimilation was detected. RNA-Seq has thus provided a better understanding of a lifestyle under limiting nitrogen sources by elucidating hitherto unknown regulated processes.

Keywords: RNA-Seq; biological nitrogen fixation; endophyte.