Increased trehalose biosynthesis improves Mesorhizobium ciceri growth and symbiosis establishment in saline conditions
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Cicer arietinum (chickpea) is a legume very sensitive to salinity, and so are most of its rhizobial symbionts belonging to the species Mesorhizobium ciceri. We observed that exogenous trehalose (i.e., added to the growth medium) can significantly improve growth of M. ciceri strain Rch125 under moderate salinity. In order to test if endogenous trehalose (i.e., synthesized by the cell) could also enhance salt tolerance, strain Rch125 was genetically modified with various trehalose biosynthesis genes from Sinorhizobium meliloti 1021 (otsA, treS, treY) and Mesorhizobium loti MAFF 303099 (otsAB). We found that overexpression of otsA or otsAB, but not treS or treY, significantly improved M. ciceri Rch125 growth in saline media. This growth improvement correlated with enhanced trehalose accumulation in otsA- and otsAB-modified cells, suggesting that increased trehalose synthesis via trehalose-6-phosphate can enhance bacterial salt tolerance. Chickpea plants inoculated with M. ciceri Rch125 derivatives carrying extra otsAB or otsA genes formed more nodules and accumulated more shoot biomass than wild type inoculated plants when grown in the presence of NaCl. These results support the notion that improved salt tolerance of the bacterial symbiont can alleviate the negative effects of salinity on chickpeas, and that such improvement in M. ciceri can be achieved by manipulating trehalose metabolism.
KeywordsStress tolerance Mesorhizobium ciceri Trehalose Osmoprotectant Symbiosis
This work was supported by grants AECI 173/03/P and AECI A/6935/06 from Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional to JS and BB, and grants BIO2005-08089-C02-01 (Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Spain) and BIO2008-02447 (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación) to JS. Help by Rebeca Pérez-Arnedo is gratefully acknowledged.
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