We examined expression of the megaplasmid pRme41b of Rhizobium meliloti in two different Rhizobium sp. Strains and in Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Transfer of pRme41b into these bacteria was facilitated by insertion of a recombinant plasmid coding for mobilization functions of RP4 into the nif region (Kondorosi, A., E. Kondorosi, C.E. Pankhurst, W. J. Broughton, and Z. Banfalvi, 1982, Mol. Gen. Genet., 188:433-439). In all cases, transconjugants formed nodule-like structures on the roots of Medicago sativa. These structures were largely composed of meristematic cells but they were not invaded by bacteria. Bacteria were found only within infection threads in root hairs, and within intercellular spaces of the outermost cells of the structures. The donor strain of R. meliloti containing pAK11 or pAK12 in pRme41b initially produced nodules on M. sativa that did not fix nitrogen (Fix-). In these nodules, bacteria were released from infection threads into the host cells but they did not multiply appreciably. Any bacteroids formed degenerated prematurely. In some cases, however, reversion to a Fix+ phenotype occurred after 4 to 6 wk. Bacteria released into newly infected cells in these nodules showed normal development into bacteriods.

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