Open Access Research article

Resistance to organic hydroperoxides requires ohr and ohrR genes in Sinorhizobium meliloti

Catherine Fontenelle, Carlos Blanco, Morgane Arrieta, Virginie Dufour and Annie Trautwetter*

Author Affiliations

UMR CNRS 6026, DUALS. Université de Rennes I, Campus de Beaulieu, Av. du Général Leclerc, 35042 Rennes, France

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-100

Published: 13 May 2011



Sinorhizobium meliloti is a symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacterium that elicits nodules on roots of host plants Medicago sativa. During nodule formation bacteria have to withstand oxygen radicals produced by the plant. Resistance to H2O2 and superoxides has been extensively studied in S. meliloti. In contrast resistance to organic peroxides has not been investigated while S. meliloti genome encodes putative organic peroxidases. Organic peroxides are produced by plants and are highly toxic. The resistance to these oxygen radicals has been studied in various bacteria but never in plant nodulating bacteria.


In this study we report the characterisation of organic hydroperoxide resistance gene ohr and its regulator ohrR in S. meliloti. The inactivation of ohr affects resistance to cumene and ter-butyl hydroperoxides but not to hydrogen peroxide or menadione in vitro. The expression of ohr and ohrR genes is specifically induced by organic peroxides. OhrR binds to the intergenic region between the divergent genes ohr and ohrR. Two binding sites were characterised. Binding to the operator is prevented by OhrR oxidation that promotes OhrR dimerisation. The inactivation of ohr did not affect symbiosis and nitrogen fixation, suggesting that redundant enzymatic activity exists in this strain. Both ohr and ohrR are expressed in nodules suggesting that they play a role during nitrogen fixation.


This report demonstrates the significant role Ohr and OhrR proteins play in bacterial stress resistance against organic peroxides in S. meliloti. The ohr and ohrR genes are expressed in nodule-inhabiting bacteroids suggesting a role during nodulation.