Open Access Research article

Intragenomic diversity of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii clover nodule isolates

Andrzej Mazur1*, Grażyna Stasiak1, Jerzy Wielbo1, Agnieszka Kubik-Komar2, Monika Marek-Kozaczuk1 and Anna Skorupska1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics and Microbiology, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Akademicka 19, 20-033 Lublin, Poland

2 Chair of Applied Mathematics and Informatics, Lublin University of Life Sciences, Akademicka 13, 20-950 Lublin, Poland

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:123  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-123

Published: 30 May 2011



Soil bacteria from the genus Rhizobium are characterized by a complex genomic architecture comprising chromosome and large plasmids. Genes responsible for symbiotic interactions with legumes are usually located on one of the plasmids, named the symbiotic plasmid (pSym). The plasmids have a great impact not only on the metabolic potential of rhizobia but also underlie genome rearrangements and plasticity.


Here, we analyzed the distribution and sequence variability of markers located on chromosomes and extrachromosomal replicons of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii strains originating from nodules of clover grown in the same site in cultivated soil. First, on the basis of sequence similarity of repA and repC replication genes to the respective counterparts of chromids reported in R. leguminosarum bv. viciae 3841 and R. etli CFN42, chromid-like replicons were distinguished from the pool of plasmids of the nodule isolates studied. Next, variability of the gene content was analyzed in the different genome compartments, i.e., the chromosome, chromid-like and 'other plasmids'. The stable and unstable chromosomal and plasmid genes were detected on the basis of hybridization data. Displacement of a few unstable genes between the chromosome, chromid-like and 'other plasmids', as well as loss of some markers was observed in the sampled strains. Analyses of chosen gene sequences allowed estimation of the degree of their adaptation to the three genome compartments as well as to the host.


Our results showed that differences in distribution and sequence divergence of plasmid and chromosomal genes can be detected even within a small group of clover nodule isolates recovered from clovers grown at the same site. Substantial divergence of genome organization could be detected especially taking into account the content of extrachromosomal DNA. Despite the high variability concerning the number and size of plasmids among the studied strains, conservation of the location as well as dynamic distribution of the individual genes (especially replication genes) of a particular genome compartment were demonstrated. The sequence divergence of particular genes may be affected by their location in the given genome compartment. The 'other plasmid' genes are less adapted to the host genome than the chromosome and chromid-like genes.