Evidence for an Inter-Organismic Heme Biosynthetic Pathway in Symbiotic Soybean Root Nodules

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Science  08 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 4998, pp. 1220-1222
DOI: 10.1126/science.251.4998.1220


The successful symbiosis of soybean with Bradyrhizobium japonicum depends on their complex interactions, culminating in the development and maintenance of root nodules. A B. japonicum mutant defective in heme synthesis in culture was able to produce heme as a result of its symbiotic association with the soybean host. The bacterial mutant was incapable of synthesizing the committed heme precursor δ-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), but nodule plant cells formed ALA from glutamate. In addition, exogenous ALA was taken up by isolated nodule bacteria of the parent strain and of the mutant. It is proposed that bacterial heme found in nodules can be synthesized from plant ALA, hence segments of a single metabolic pathway are spatially separated into two organisms.

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