Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Swarming motility is considered to be a social phenomenon that enables groups of bacteria to move coordinately atop solid surfaces. The differentiated swarmer cell population is embedded in an extracellular slime layer, and the phenomenon has previously been linked with biofilm formation and virulence. The gram-negative nitrogen-fixing soil bacterium Rhizobium etli CNPAF512 was previously shown to display swarming behavior on soft agar plates. In a search for novel genetic determinants of swarming, a detailed analysis of the swarming behavior of 700 miniTn5 mutants of R. etli was performed. Twenty-four mutants defective in swarming or displaying abnormal swarming patterns were identified and could be divided into three groups based on their swarming pattern. Fourteen mutants were completely swarming deficient, five mutants showed an atypical swarming pattern with no completely smooth edge and local extrusions, and five mutants displayed an intermediate swarming phenotype. Sequence analysis of the targeted genes indicated that the mutants were likely affected in quorum-sensing, polysaccharide composition or export, motility, and amino acid and polyamines metabolism. Several of the identified mutants displayed a reduced symbiotic nitrogen fixation activity.