Open Access Research article

Transcriptome profiling of a Sinorhizobium meliloti fadD mutant reveals the role of rhizobactin 1021 biosynthesis and regulation genes in the control of swarming

Joaquina Nogales, Ana Domínguez-Ferreras, Carol V Amaya-Gómez, Pieter van Dillewijn, Virginia Cuéllar, Juan Sanjuán, José Olivares and María J Soto*

Author Affiliations

Departamento de Microbiología del Suelo y Sistemas Simbióticos, Estación Experimental del Zaidín, CSIC, Profesor Albareda, 1, 18008 Granada, Spain

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:157  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-157

Published: 8 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Swarming is a multicellular phenomenom characterized by the coordinated and rapid movement of bacteria across semisolid surfaces. In Sinorhizobium meliloti this type of motility has been described in a fadD mutant. To gain insights into the mechanisms underlying the process of swarming in rhizobia, we compared the transcriptome of a S. meliloti fadD mutant grown under swarming inducing conditions (semisolid medium) to those of cells grown under non-swarming conditions (broth and solid medium).

Results

More than a thousand genes were identified as differentially expressed in response to growth on agar surfaces including genes for several metabolic activities, iron uptake, chemotaxis, motility and stress-related genes. Under swarming-specific conditions, the most remarkable response was the up-regulation of iron-related genes. We demonstrate that the pSymA plasmid and specifically genes required for the biosynthesis of the siderophore rhizobactin 1021 are essential for swarming of a S. meliloti wild-type strain but not in a fadD mutant. Moreover, high iron conditions inhibit swarming of the wild-type strain but not in mutants lacking either the iron limitation response regulator RirA or FadD.

Conclusions

The present work represents the first transcriptomic study of rhizobium growth on surfaces including swarming inducing conditions. The results have revealed major changes in the physiology of S. meliloti cells grown on a surface relative to liquid cultures. Moreover, analysis of genes responding to swarming inducing conditions led to the demonstration that iron and genes involved in rhizobactin 1021 synthesis play a role in the surface motility shown by S. meliloti which can be circumvented in a fadD mutant. This work opens a way to the identification of new traits and regulatory networks involved in swarming by rhizobia.