Multiplicity of Sulfate and Molybdate Transporters and Their Role in Nitrogen Fixation in Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae Rlv3841.

Rhizobium leguminosarum Rlv3841 contains at least three sulfate transporters, i.e., SulABCD, SulP1 and SulP2, and a single molybdate transporter, ModABC. SulABCD is a high-affinity transporter whose mutation prevented growth on a limiting sulfate concentration, while SulP1 and SulP2 appear to be low-affinity sulfate transporters. ModABC is the sole high-affinity molybdate transport system and is essential for growth with NO3(-) as a nitrogen source on limiting levels of molybdate (<0.25 µM). However, at 2.5 µM molybdate, a quadruple mutant with all four transporters inactivated, had the longest lag phase on NO3(-), suggesting these systems all make some contribution to molybdate transport. Growth of Rlv3841 on limiting levels of sulfate increased sulB, sulP1, modB, and sulP2 expression 313.3-, 114.7-, 6.2-, and 4.0-fold, respectively, while molybdate starvation increased only modB expression (three- to 7.5-fold). When grown in high-sulfate but not low-sulfate medium, pea plants inoculated with LMB695 (modB) reduced acetylene at only 14% of the wild-type rate, and this was not further reduced in the quadruple mutant. Overall, while modB is crucial to nitrogen fixation at limiting molybdate levels in the presence of sulfate, there is an unidentified molybdate transporter also capable of sulfate transport.