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Title: Spontaneously Produced Lysogenic Phages Are an Important Component of the Soybean Bradyrhizobium Mobilome
ABSTRACT The ability of Bradyrhizobium spp. to nodulate and fix atmospheric nitrogen in soybean root nodules is critical to meeting humanity’s nutritional needs. The intricacies of soybean bradyrhizobia-plant interactions have been studied extensively; however, bradyrhizobial ecology as influenced by phages has received somewhat less attention, even though these interactions may significantly impact soybean yield. In batch culture, four soybean bradyrhizobia strains, Bradyrhizobium japonicum S06B (S06B-Bj), B. japonicum S10J (S10J-Bj), Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens USDA 122 (USDA 122-Bd), and Bradyrhizobium elkanii USDA 76 T (USDA 76-Be), spontaneously (without apparent exogenous chemical or physical induction) produced tailed phages throughout the growth cycle; for three strains, phage concentrations exceeded cell numbers by ~3-fold after 48 h of incubation. Phage terminase large-subunit protein phylogeny revealed possible differences in phage packaging and replication mechanisms. Bioinformatic analyses predicted multiple prophage regions within each soybean bradyrhizobia genome, preventing accurate identification of spontaneously produced prophage (SPP) genomes. A DNA sequencing and mapping approach accurately delineated the boundaries of four SPP genomes within three of the soybean bradyrhizobia chromosomes and suggested that the SPPs were capable of transduction. In addition to the phages, S06B-Bj and USDA 76-Be contained three to four times more insertion sequences (IS) and large, conjugable, broad host range plasmids, both of which are known drivers of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in soybean bradyrhizobia. These factors indicate that SPP along with IS and plasmids participate in HGT, drive bradyrhizobia evolution, and play an outsized role in bradyrhizobia ecology. IMPORTANCE Previous studies have shown that IS and plasmids mediate HGT of symbiotic nodulation ( nod ) genes in soybean bradyrhizobia; however, these events require close cell-to-cell contact, which could be limited in soil environments. Bacteriophage-assisted gene transduction through spontaneously produced prophages provides a stable means of HGT not limited by the constraints of proximal cell-to-cell contact. These phage-mediated HGT events may shape soybean bradyrhizobia population ecology, with concomitant impacts on soybean agriculture.  more » « less
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Buchan, Alison
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National Science Foundation
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