Identification and analysis of the Rhizobium meliloti exoAMONP genes involved in exopolysaccharide biosynthesis and mapping of promoters located on the exoHKLAMONP fragment.
Sequence analysis of a 7.494 kb DNA fragment from megaplasmid 2 of Rhizobium meliloti 2011 involved in exopolysaccharide I (EPS I) biosynthesis revealed the presence of five exo genes designated exoA, exoM, exoN, exoO, and exoP. ExoN was found to show strong homology to a UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase from Acetobacter xylinum, whereas ExoO displayed weak homologies to the NodC proteins from R. meliloti and R. loti. Surprisingly, different mutations in exoP resulted in divergent phenotypes. One exoP mutant was able to establish an effective symbiosis with alfalfa, although no EPS I polymer could be detected. In contrast, other exoP mutations prevented the formation of an effective symbiosis. The transcriptional organization of the exoA-exoP gene region has been analysed in conjunction with the exoH, exoK and exoL genes. Using exo-lacZ transcription fusions in association with plasmid integration mutagenesis a strong promoter was identified upstream of exoH, which is able to direct transcription of the whole exoHKLAMONP gene cluster. A much weaker promoter upstream of exoL was found to be involved in the transcription of the exoLAMONP genes. In addition, weak promoters were identified upstream of exoK, exoA, exoN and exoP.