Symbiosomes: temporary moonlighting organelles

  • Emerich D
  • Krishnan H
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Abstract

Symbiosomes are a unique structural entity that performs the role of biological nitrogen fixation, an energy-demanding process that is the primary entryway of fixed nitrogen into the biosphere. Symbiosomes result from the infection of specific rhizobial strains into the roots of an appropriate leguminous host plant forming an organ referred to as a nodule. Within the infected plant cells of the nodule, the rhizobia are encased within membrane-bounded structures that develop into symbiosomes. Mature symbiosomes create an environment that allows the rhizobia to differentiate into a nitrogen-fixing form called bacteroids. The bacteroids are surrounded by the symbiosome space, which is populated by proteins from both eukaryotic and prokaryotic symbionts, suggesting this space is the quintessential component of symbiosis: an inter-kingdom environment with the single purpose of symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Proteins associated with the symbiosome membrane are largely plant-derived proteins and are non-metabolic in nature. The proteins of the symbiosome space are mostly derived from the bacteroid with annotated functions of carbon metabolism, whereas relatively few are involved in nitrogen metabolism. An appreciable portion of both the eukaryotic and prokaryotic proteins in the symbiosome are also 'moonlighting' proteins, which are defined as proteins that perform roles unrelated to their annotated activities when found in an unexpected physiological environment. The essential functions of symbiotic nitrogen fixation of the symbiosome are performed by co-operative interactions of proteins from both symbionts some of which may be performing unexpected roles.

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Authors

  • David W. Emerich

  • Hari B. Krishnan

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