Survival of the fattest: Understanding the role of polyesters in root nodule bacteria

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

S. meliloti

Even Sinorhizobium meliloti suffers from a weight gain once in a while.

Except that what this bacteria species produces as “fat” is actually a very useful form of biodegradable polyester called polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). In order to understand how PHB is involved in S. meliloti’stransition from soil inhabitant to an agriculturally important nitrogen fixing symbiont, however, researchers need to understand how this carbon storage mechanism is controlled at the genetic level.

This week, a team of biologists, including PhD candidate Maya D’Alessio, former student Ricardo Nordeste and WCMR members Andrew Doxey and Trevor Charles at the University of Waterloo published their transcriptional analysis – a first step toward identifying which genes influence production of PHB – in S. meliloti under the extreme conditions of feast and famine in its environment. It’s under feast conditions that S. meliloti starts overproducing PHB for later use as a food source during leaner times.

Their study appears in the journal mSystems.

The project was funded by a Strategic Projects Grant and a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and by Genome Canada. Maya D’Alessio was supported by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

This article originally appeared in Survival of the fattest written by Victoria Van Cappellen.

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