In Sinorhizobium meliloti, RpoH-type sigma factors have a global impact on gene expression during heat shock and play an essential role in symbiosis with leguminous plants. Using mutational analysis of a set of genes showing highly RpoH-dependent expression during heat shock, we identified a gene indispensable for effective symbiosis. This gene, designated sufT, was located downstream of the sufBCDS homologs that specify the iron-sulfur (Fe/S) cluster assembly pathway. The identified transcription start site was preceded by an RpoH-dependent promoter consensus sequence. SufT was related to a conserved protein family of unknown molecular function, of which some members are involved in Fe/S cluster metabolism in diverse organisms. A sufT mutation decreased bacterial growth in both rich and minimal media, tolerance to stresses such as iron starvation, and activities of some Fe/S cluster-dependent enzymes. These results support the involvement of SufT in SUF (sulfur mobilization) system-mediated Fe/S protein metabolism. Furthermore, we isolated spontaneous pseudorevertants of the sufT mutant with partially recovered growth; each of them had a mutation in rirA. This gene encodes a global iron regulator whose loss increases the intracellular iron content. Deletion of rirA in the original sufT mutant improved growth and restored Fe/S enzyme activities and effective symbiosis. These results suggest that enhanced iron availability compensates for the lack of SufT in the maintenance of Fe/S proteins.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology