Rhizobia dwell and multiply in the soil and represent a unique group of bacteria able to enter into a symbiotic interaction with plants from the Fabaceae family and fix atmospheric nitrogen inside de novo created plant organs, called nodules. One of the key determinants of the successful interaction between these bacteria and plants are exopolysaccharides, which represent species-specific homo- and heteropolymers of different carbohydrate units frequently decorated by non-carbohydrate substituents. Exopolysaccharides are typically built from repeat units assembled by the Wzx/Wzy-dependent pathway, where individual subunits are synthesized in conjunction with the lipid anchor undecaprenylphosphate (und-PP), due to the activity of glycosyltransferases. Complete oligosaccharide repeat units are transferred to the periplasmic space by the activity of the Wzx flippase, and, while still being anchored in the membrane, they are joined by the polymerase Wzy. Here we have focused on the genetic control over the process of exopolysaccharides (EPS) biosynthesis in rhizobia, with emphasis put on the recent advancements in understanding the mode of action of the key proteins operating in the pathway. A role played by exopolysaccharide in Rhizobium
–legume symbiosis, including recent data confirming the signaling function of EPS, is also discussed.
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