Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Occurrence of multiple large DNA...
 Acridine orange-induced mutations...
 Nif gene hybridization studies...
 Biographical sketch

Title: Multiple large DNA molecules of Azospirillum /
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099506/00001
 Material Information
Title: Multiple large DNA molecules of Azospirillum /
Physical Description: v, 67 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Wood, Alvin Gleave, 1951-
Publication Date: 1982
Copyright Date: 1982
Subject: Bacteria, Nitrifying   ( lcsh )
Nitrogen-fixing microorganisms   ( lcsh )
Microbiology and Cell Science thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Microbiology and Cell Science -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1982.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 60-66.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by Alvin G. Wood.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099506
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000316025
oclc - 08546880
notis - ABU2815


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
    Occurrence of multiple large DNA molecules in Azospirillum and a method for isolating them on agarose gels
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        Page 30
    Acridine orange-induced mutations in Azospirillum
        Page 31
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    Nif gene hybridization studies of Azospirillum DNA molecules
        Page 47
        Page 48
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        Page 50
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    Biographical sketch
        Page 67
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Full Text








The author would like to thank his committee members,

Drs. Dennis E. Duggan, Francis C. Davis, Jr., Philip J.

Laipis, William W. Hauswirth and L.O. Ingram for their

valuable suggestions and criticisms.

He would also like to extend special thanks to

Dr. William B. Gurley for help with the hybridization

experiments and for the use of his laboratory equipment

and supplies.











Introduction .
Materials and Methods
Results .

IN Azospirillum 31

Introduction 31
Materials and Methods . . . 32
Results. 33
Discussion. 37

OF Azospirillum DNA MOLECULES.

Introduction .
Materials and Methods . .
Results and Discussion. .






. 47
. 48
. 51

. 58

. 59

. 60

. 47

. 67

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Alvin G. Wood

May 1982

Chairman: Dennis E. Duggan
Major Department: Microbiology and Cell Science

Six strains of Azospirillum brasilense and two of

A. lipoferum were found to harbor as many as eight different-

sized circular DNA molecules ranging from 45 to 1500 mega-

daltons. Identification and separation of these very large

molecules were achieved by gently lysing bacteria in the wells

of vertical agarose gels, subjecting the lysate to electro-

phoresis at 2 mA for 6 h, and then continuing electrophoresis

at 15-30 mA for an additional 12-48 h. Optimal recovery

required lysis at 40C in the presence of ribonuclease. The

technique has been used to isolate large DNAs from other

bacteria, including the chromosomes of Escherichia coli

and Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

Several types of mutants were isolated from acridine

orange-treated cultures of A. lipoferum and A. brasilense.

Mutants displaying increased sensitivity to cadmium and

unable to grow on carbon-free media or on ethanol were all

found to have lost a specific plasmid. One of these strains

was shown to have suffered deletions in most of its remaining

DNA molecules. A mutant unable to grow on N2 or reduce

acetylene was isolated from the multiply-deleted strain, but

its DNA molecules showed the same electrophoretic mobilities

as those of its parent strain. Methionine-requiring auxo-

trophs, isolated at a high frequency from A. lipoferum cul-

tures, also possessed DNA molecules with unaltered mobilities.

Attempts were made to determine which Azospirillum DNA

molecule includes the genes controlling nitrogen fixation by

hybridizing a labeled recombinant probe to Southern blots

of wild type and mutant DNA molecules. The limited success

acheived with this technique indicates that the structural

genes for nitrogenase are carried on the largest Azospirillum

DNA molecule.

IN Azospirillum


The genus Azospirillum comprises Gram-negative, free-living,

nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in association with roots of

cereal crops and tropical forage grasses (19). Field experiments

conducted at the University of Florida showed higher yields

of dry matter in Azospirillum-inoculated pearl millet and

guinea grass than in uninoculated controls (64). More

recently, Azospirillum inoculation has been reported to

enhance corn yields in Israel (46).

The potential agronomic value of this association has

prompted studies of carbon and nitrogen metabolism in Azo-

spirillum (2, 21, 27, 28, 38, 43, 44, 45, 48, 49, 51), and

the scores of strains isolated from various parts of the

world have been grouped, on the basis of DNA homology and

biochemical characteristics, into two species, A. lipoferum

and A. brasilense (67). Very little is known, however,

concerning the genetics of Azospirillum (26, 41, 55). In

particular, no system of genetic transfer exists which would

permit location of the genes controlling nitrogen fixation

and facilitate studies of their expression.


Our interest in developing a system of genetic transfer

for Azospirillum led us to examine several wild type strains

for the presence of plasmids. Our initial attempt to identify

plasmid DNA in Azospirillum (9) involved dye bouyant density

ultracentrifugation of alkaline denatured lysates (61) and

direct visualization of plasmids in the satellite bands by

electron microscopy (18). Open circular (OC) DNAs of various

contour lengths were seen, but the apparent multiplicity of

molecules in each strain and their large sizes relative to

the plasmid chosen as a size standard (ColE1) made it difficult

to accurately assess the numbers and sizes of plasmids in

any given strain. However, plasmids with molecular weights

in excess of 300 megadaltons (Mdal) did appear to be present

in several Azospirillum strains.

This observation prompted us to try two electrophoretic

techniques specifically designed for the isolation of large

plasmids (10, 29), but neither of these permitted the isolation

of more than three plasmids from any Azospirillum strain.

We felt there was a strong possibility that very large

plasmids were present in these strains but that they were

being sheared during the mechanical manipulations, however

gentle, inherent in these procedures.

Therefore we adopted a method which is theoretically

the most gentle of all, that described by Eckhardt (22).

This technique differs fundamentally from other electrophoretic

techniques in that plasmid DNA is not extracted from cells

prior to electrophoresis. Rather, the bacteria are lysed

directly in the wells of the gel apparatus, resulting in

minimal nicking or breakage of covalently closed circular

(CCC) DNA. Using a modified version of this technique, we

have discovered the widespread occurrence of a multiplicity

of very large DNA molecules in strains of Azospirillum.

The present communication describes the electrophoretic

conditions necessary for the successful isolation of these

Azospirillum DNA molecules. Estimates of the sizes of the

molecules harbored by one Azospirillum strain are provided,

based on a comparison of their mobilities with those of

plasmids of known molecular weight. The very low mobilities

of some of the Azospirillum molecules suggest that they

represent small chromosomes rather than large plasmids.

Indeed, we have been able to isolate slowly-migrating DNA

bands from strains of Escherichia coli and Agrobacterium

tumefaciens, including two strains which do not harbor

plasmids. Evidence is provided indicating that the slowly-

migrating DNA bands isolated from Azospirillum represent CCC

DNA uncomplexed with protein.

Materials and Methods

Bacterial strains. Table 1-1 lists the Azospirillum

strains examined for plasmid content. Table 1-2 lists other

bacterial strains harboring plasmids of known molecular

weights used for construction of the standard size curve.

Growth conditions. All bacteria were grown to early

stationary phase prior to harvesting for electrophoresis.

Azospirillum and A. tumefaciens strains were grown in a

succinate/mineral salts medium (50) supplemented with 0.01%

yeast extract. Pseudomonas putida and E. coli strains were

grown in nutrient broth (Difco) supplemented with 0.01%

yeast extract. Growth temperatures were 35C for Azospirillum

and E. coli and 28C for A. tumefaciens and P. putida.

Plasmid isolation and agarose gel electrophoresis. We

used an electrophoretic method based on that described by

Eckhardt (22). The protocol outlined here includes modifications

found to be necessary for optimal, reproducible visualization

of the electrophoretic bands representing the largest DNA


Vertical gels were cast with 0.6% or 0.7% molten agarose

(BioRad Standard Low -m ) in Tris/borate/EDTA electrophoresis

(E) buffer (40). The agarose was tempered at 420C for 20

min prior to casting the gel in order to minimize contracture

during solidification. The plastic comb used to form wells

had 16 teeth (13x9x1.5 mm). The gel was submerged in E

buffer and allowed to age at least 4 h at 4C prior to

removal of the comb. Spraying the comb lightly with PAM

(Boyle-Midway) prevented agarose from sticking to it during


Except where otherwise noted, wells were loaded in the fol-

lowing manner. One milliliter of cell culture was centrifuged

for one minute in a microcentrifuge (Fisher Model 235). The

supernatant solution was pipetted off using a vacuum aspirator

and the pellet was resuspended in 20-100 pl of 20% ficoll in

E buffer. Ten microliter aliquots of the cell suspensions were

added to wells preloaded with 15 1l of a solution containing

20% ficoll, 10 pg/ml lysozyme (Sigma), 100 pg/ml ribonuclease

A (Sigma), and 0.05% xylene cyanol FF (Kodak) in E buffer.

No attempt was made to mix the cell suspension with the

lysozyme solution inside the well. The cells were allowed

to interact with the lysozyme mixture at 40C for a minimum

of 30 min, and then 30 1 of 10% ficoll, 1% SDS in E buffer

was added, followed by 50 pl of 5% ficoll, 1% SDS in E buffer.

A current of 2 mA was applied for a minimum of 6 h, and

then the current was raised to 15-30 mA (50-100 V at 4C).

Electrophoresis was continued for 12-48 h depending on the

voltage used and the degree of molecular separation required.

The large capacity (2.5 1) of the buffer reservoirs of our

electrophoresis apparatus made recirculation of buffer un-


Photography. Gels were stained for a minimum of 30 min

in 0.5 ug/ml ethidium bromide and visualized with either a

254 nm hand-held UV light (UV Products) or a 300 nm trans-

illuminator (Fotodyne). Photographs were taken through #4

and #29 Wratten filters, using Type 57 film (Polaroid).

Standard curve construction. Mobility data from 19 gels

were normalized to the mobility data of the gel illustrated

in Fig. 1-6 according to the method described by Hansen and

Olsen (29, Appendix A) except that absolute mobilities

(distances of plasmid migration from origin) rather than

relative mobilities (absolute mobilities divided by gel

lengths) were used in the calculations (see Appendix A).

The number of DNA bands in common between the normalized and

standard gels ranged from 7 to 15 with an average of 12.

The logarithm of the average normalized mobility of a given

standard plasmid was plotted against the logarithm of the

molecular weight of that plasmid, and a least squares regres-

sion line was calculated (see Appendix B). This regression

line was then used to estimate the molecular weights of the

Azospirillum molecules as well as the presumed chromosomes

of E. coli and A. tumefaciens.

Plasmid nomenclature. The molecule having the lowest

mobility in each Azospirillum strain has been designated

pAZ1; molecules are then numbered in order of increasing

mobility. All the molecules of a given strain are suffixed

with that strain designation. For example, the smallest

plasmid of Spl3t is pAZ6-Spl3t.


Multiplicity of DNA molecules found in Azospirillum

strains. Figures 1-1 and 1-2 illustrate the electrophoretic

banding patterns obtained from eight geographically diverse

isolates of A. brasilense and A. lipoferum lysed in the

wells of vertical agarose gels. Each strain has a character-

istic array of DNA molecules of various mobilities, an

observation which can be used for purposes of identification.

Every strain harbors two molecules whose extremely low

mobilities suggest that they represent small chromosomes

rather than plasmids. Under optimal conditions, the recovery

of these DNAs is highly reproducible except for the small

plasmid which bands in the region of linear DNA in some gels

(Fig. 1-1, lane D; Fig. 1-2, lanes C and D).

A comparison of Figs. 1-1 and 1-2 indicates that very

long periods of electrophoresis are necessary in order to

achieve separation of all the DNA bands, in accordance with

what would be expected for very large DNAs. The increase in

resolution achieved by increasing electrophoresis time is,

unfortunately, accompanied by a tendency for the most slowly-

migrating bands to become faint or disappear altogether

(data not shown). This suggests, however, that the material

is those bands is fragile, presumably because of its high

molecular weight.

Effect of ultraviolet light on mobilities of JM125A,

molecules. Figure 1-3 compares the mobilities of UV-irradiated

and unirradiated molecules of JM125A2. The JM125A2 molecules

were isolated in the usual manner except that electrophoresis

was terminated after 4 h at 80 V. Blocks of agar were cut

from lanes of the gel, extending from the well to the position

of the tracking dye. One of the unstained agar blocks

(lane B) was subjected to a dose of approximately 3000 J/m2

of 254 nm UV, while the other (lane A) was untreated. This

dose should have been sufficient to introduce at least one

chain break into every CCC DNA molecule in the irradiated

gel (6, 7, 33, 56). Both treated and untreated agarose

blocks were then imbedded in a horizontal agarose gel and

subjected to electrophoresis for 8 h at 50 V. As indicated

in Fig. 1-3, UV irradiation converted the DNA molecules from

forms capable of movement through an agarose gel into forms

incapable of such movement. Presumably, this represents the

conversion of CCC DNA into OC DNA.

Effects of enzymatic treatments on DNA recovery. In

order to acquire information concerning the physical relation-

ships of the DNA molecules to other cellular components, the

roles of lysozyme, RNase, and protease (Sigma Type VI) in

optimal DNA recovery were assessed. Figure 1-4 shows that

neither the addition of protease to the standard cell

mixture nor the elimination of lysozyme had an appreciable

effect on DNA recovery or mobility. The elimination of

RNase, however, resulted in failure to recover pAZI and pAZ2

as well as poor recovery of pAZ3.

Effect of cell mass on DNA isolation. Figure 1-5 illus-

trates the result of an experiment in which cell suspensions

of JM125A2 and AT181 were serially diluted prior to loading

the wells. The smearing of the bands in lanes A and E

appears to be due to overloading. The use of only 107 cells

(lanes D and H) allowed visualization of all the DNA bands

in this experiment. However, in other experiments (data not

shown) using 107 cells resulted in very faint bands, particu-

larly for the smaller molecules. Optimal recovery was
usually achieved with 10 cells.
usually achieved with 10 cells.

Size estimates of DNA molecules. The mobilities of the

DNA molecules of JM125A2 in relation to plasmids of known

molecular weight and slowly-migrating DNAs of other bacteria

are illustrated in Figs. 1-6, 1-7, and 1-8. Based on Fig.

1-6, JM125A2 appears to harbor five molecules larger than

the largest standard molecule (pMG1, 312 Mdal). Recovery of

the larger JM125A2 molecules was poor in Figs. 1-6 and 1-7;

these are included primarily to show the slowly-migrating

DNAs isolated from E. coli (Fig. 1-7, lane F; Fig 1-3, lanes

E, G, and H) and A. tumefaciens (Fig. 1-7, lane A). The two

slowly-migrating DNAs recovered from A. tumefaciens have

been given the designations pXX1-AT181 and pXX2-AT181. The

isolation of these slowly-migrating DNAs is not completely

reproducible (Fig. 1-6, lanes E and F; Fig 1-7, lane E;

Fig. 1-8, lanes A and D). Indeed, the difficulty of isola-

ting the molecules appears, in our experience, to be inver-

sely related to mobility. Thus, our rate of success in

isolating slowly-migrating DNAs from Azospirillum is 90% or

better, but our success rate with the slowly-migrating

E. coli DNA has never exceeded 50%. We have never isolated

a slowly-migrating DNA band from either of the two Pseudo-

monas strains used in the present study. This failure may

be related to an observed tendency for these strains to lyse


Mobility data from 20 agarose gels were normalized and

used to construct a standard curve relating electrophoretic

mobility and molecular weight (Fig. 1-9). Since reports in

the literature had suggested that CCC DNAs larger than 80

Mdal (72) or 140 Mdal (29) migrate faster than predicted

from linear extrapolations of standard curves based on

smaller CCC DNAs, we initially calculated a regression line

not including pMG1 and pMG5. When this line was used to

estimate the sizes of the Azospirillum molecules, however,

it seemed impossible that the values obtained could be

underestimates. We therefore recalculated regression data

with the large Pseudomonas plasmids included, and again with

the slowly-migrating band from E. coli included and assigned

a molecular weight of 2800 Mdal (8,14,28). The three sets

of regression line estimates are summarized in Table 1-3.

Figure 1-9 is a graph of regression line B, chosen because

it includes only those molecules measured by electron micro-

scopic contour length.

Effect of voltage gradient on regression estimates. If

the larger molecules examined in the present study were

really migrating faster than predicted, this effect should

be more pronounced at higher than at lower voltages (24).

We were particularly interested in this possibility since,

in our attempts to optimize electrophoresis conditions, we

had used voltages ranging from 50 V to 100 V and we wished

to include data from as many gels as possible in our regression

line calculations. Figure 1-10 compares the mobilities of

five standard plasmids run at 50 V for 42 h with mobilities

of the same plasmids run at 100 V for 24 h. The two curves

are nearly parallel and neither displays a convincing change

of slope above 140 Mdal. Table 1-4 indicates that, for each

standard plasmid, the ratio of mobility at 100 V to mobility

at 50V is a constant value.


Eckhardt first described in situ lysis of bacteria in

agarose gels as a rapid method for plasmid isolation (22).

We have sacrificed the rapidity of the technique but exploited

its gentleness in order to isolate very high molecular

weight CCC DNAs from Azospirillum and other bacteria.

Our initial excitement in isolating slowly-migrating

DNAs on agarose gels was tempered with concern that the low

mobilities might reflect an open circular nature or some

protein interaction rather than large size. The electro-

phoretic behavior of the JM125A2 molecules subsequent to UV

irradiation, however, strongly indicates that they are

covalently closed and supercoiled. A DNA/protein interaction,

while not strictly ruled out by the failure of protease to

alter the electrophoretic mobilities of the molecules, seems

unlikely in view of this result. Furthermore, such an

association would have to be resistant to dissociation by

the SDS which quickly migrates from the upper ficoll layers

down through the DNA-containing region of the gel during

electrophoresis. Thus, the slowly-migrating bands do not

appear to represent relaxation complexes of the type isolated

from plasmid-bearing strains of E. coli, which dissociate

yielding OC DNA when exposed to SDS or protease (13).

A comparison of the DNA molecules isolated from

A. brasilense strains Sp7 and Spl3t provides further evidence

that the slowly-migrating DNAs are not simply isomeric forms

of smaller plasmids. Since these two strains were isolated

from the same region of Brazil and display nearly identical

electrophoretic banding patters, there is a good possibility

that they are isogenic except for the occurrence of pAZ6-Sp7

in one strain. If so, none of the slowly-migrating DNAs of

either strain could represent an isomeric form of this

relatively small molecule.

The requirement of RNase treatment for isolation of the

larger Azospirillum DNAs suggests that, in their native

forms, these molecules are attached via RNA to some cellular

component in a manner precluding entry into the gel matrix.

It is also possible that the larger Azospirillum molecules

are attached to one another via RNA. Assuming the likelihood

that essential genes are carried on the largest two or three

molecules, some mechanism to ensure cosegregation of newly-

replicated molecules into daughter cells would appear to be

necessary. Molecules as large as pAZ1 and pAZ2 might further

be expected to exist inside the cell in condensed, folded

states. These considerations lead us to postulate that pAZ1

and pAZ2 (and perhaps pAZ3) are arranged in a chromosomal

structure closely resembling that believed to occur in

E. coli (54, 73, 74). The only difference between the two

"nucleoid" structures would be that in E. coli the RNA-

stabilized domains comprise a single, continuous DNA molecule,

whereas in Azospirillum these domains are divided into two

or three continuous DNA molecules. The remaining Azospi-

rillum molecules might form nonintegrative associations with

the Azospirillum nucleoid analogous to those described

between other large, stringently controlled plasmids and

their host chromosomes (34, 35).

We have attempted to estimate the sizes of the DNA

molecules of one Azospirillum strain (JM125A2) by comparing
their mobilities to those of plasmids whose sizes have been

calculated from electron microscopic contour length measure-

ments. A problem with this effort arose in that five of the

JM125A2 molecules migrated more slowly than pMG1, the lar-

gest standard plasmid available. Their sizes, therefore,

had to be estimated from a linear extrapolation of our

standard curve (Fig. 1-9) and so must be considered only


Some investigators have cautioned against standard

curve extrapolations on the grounds that CCC DNAs larger

than 80 Mdal (72) or 140 Mdal (29) migrate faster than

predicted. For several reasons, this appears not to be the

case under our electrophoresis conditions. First, it is

difficult to believe that the calculated values for the

larger Azospirillum molecules could be underestimates.

Second, these estimates change only modestly when the Pseu-

domonas plasmids are disallowed or when the chromosome of

E. coli is included in the regression line calculation

(Table 1-4). Third, the hypothetical nonlinearity of the

standard curve should have been greater for a gel run at 100

V than for a gel run at 50V, but Table 1-4 indicates that

the relative mobilities of the standard plasmids were nearly

identical at the two voltages. Finally, a theoretical

justification for nonlinearity of standard curves for CCC

DNAs in the high molecular weight range has not been advanced.

The explanation offered for the fast mobilities of high

molecular weight linear DNAs, i.e., "end-on" migration (1,

25), would seemingly not apply to high molecular weight CCC


From the estimated sizes of the Azospirillum molecules

and assuming one copy of each per cell, the full genetic

complement of DNA for these bacteria appears to be approximately

4.3x109 daltons, some 50% greater than the corresponding

value for E. coli (8, 14, 28). At present, we can only

speculate as to the reason for this discrepancy. The large

complement of DNA may simply reflect the metabolic diversity

of these bacteria; Azospirillum species are capable of

carrying out most of the known nitrogen transformations (19,

44, 45), can grow heterotrophically (49) or autotrophically

(60), and tolerate the full range of oxygen tensions from

fully aerobic (49) to anaerobic with nitrate as terminal

electron acceptor (45). Alternatively, some of the Azospirillum

DNA may be redundant. This redundancy, if it does occur,

could provide a basis for recombination among Azospirillum

DNA molecules, underlying a potential mechanism for the

evolution of new strains.

The application of the modified Eckhardt technique to

bacteria harboring size standard plasmids led to the discovery

that slowly-migrating DNAs could be isolated from species

other than Azospirillum. Molecules with apparent molecular

weights of 500 and 1800 Mdal were isolated from A. tumefaciens

AT181 along with the two previously described plasmids.

These four molecules may well represent the full genetic

complement of this A. tumefaciens strain since the sum of

their estimated sizes is 2.6x109 daltons. Hence, pXX1-AT181

may, in fact, represent the Agrobacterium chromosome. The

slowly-migrating DNA isolated from E. coli strains appears

to represent the E. coli chromosome since it displayed an

appropriate mobility and could be recovered from both plasmid-

harboring and plasmidless strains. Isolation of intact

E. coli chromosomes by ultracentrifugation of gently lysed

cells through neutral sucrose gradients has been described

by others (66, 73).

In summary, we have demonstrated that strains of

Azospirillum harbor unique arrays of large DNA molecules.

The probability that these molecules comprise the full

genetic complement of their host bacteria suggests that

Azospirillum should be considered a multichromosomal

prokaryote. Arrangement of genetic material in this fashion

contrasts sharply with the situation in E. coli, in which

more than 90% of the DNA is carried on a single large molecule.

The common assumption that the DNA of most prokaryotes is

arranged as it is in E. coli may reflect, to a certain

extent, the previous lack of a suitable protocol for isolating

CCC DNAs larger than 500 Mdal.

Table 1-1. Geographic origins of Azospirillum strains

Species Strain Isolated bya Placea Countrya

A. brasilense Sp7 J. Dobereiner Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Spl3t "
Sp84 "
Cd D. L. Eskew Riverside, CA USA
JM82A1 J. R. Milam Venezuela

JM125A2 Gainesville, FL USA
A. lipoferum SpUSA5b J. Dobereiner Pullmann, WA "
SpRG6xx Passo Fundo Brazil

from Reference 67

Table 1-2. Strains containing plasmids of known molecular weight

Species Strain Source Plasmid MWa (ref.)

Escherichia coli K12 C600 this lab RP4 36 (40)
X1254 F14 202 (47)
II' F 61 (47)
S' F14 A F 141 (47)

' JC182 B. Bachmann none
Escherichia coli C W. Klipp none
Pseudomonas putida PpS1239 J. Shapiro pMGl 312 (29)
' PpS1240 pMG5 280 (29)

tumefaciens AT181 W. Gurley pTi-AT181 114 (16)
S" pAT-AT181 158 (16)

ain megadaltons

Table 1-3. Linear regression estimates
of sizes of DNA molecules

DNA molecule Aa Bb Cc

F14 cF
E. coli chromosome




abased on mobilities
than 160 Mdal
based on mobilities
based on mobilities
E. coli chromosome

of standard plasmids smaller

of all standard plasmids
of all standard plasmids plus

NOTE: Sizes are in megadaltons, 1s.d.

Table 1-4. Comparison of mobilities of standard
plasmids run at 50 V and 100 V

Plasmid Gel Aa Mobility (cm) Gel Bb B/A

pMG1 3.10 3.80 1.23
pMG5 3.20 3.90 1.22
pTi-AT181 3.90 4.75 1.22
pAT-AT181 3.50 4.35 1.24
RP4 5.35 6.80 1.27

a50 V for 42 h
100 V for 24 h


Fig. 1-1. Agarose gel electrophoresis of large DNA
molecules from eight Azospirillum strains of diverse
geographic origin. Electrophoresis was for 24 h at 80 V.
A. brasilense strains: (A) Sp7; (B) Spl3t; (C) Sp84;
D) Cd; (E) JM82A ; (F) JM125A. A. lipoferum strains:
G) SpUSA5b; (H) SpRG6xx.


Fig. 1-2. Increased separation of large Azospirillum
DNA molecules in an agarose gel subjected to electrophoresis
for 36 h at 80 V. A. brasilense strains: (A) Sp7;
(B) Spl3t; (C) Sp84; (D) Cd; (E) JM82A; (F) JM125Ao.
A. lipoferum strains: (G) SpUSA5b; (H) SpRG6xx.


Fig. 1-3. Agarose gel showing the effect of UV light
on mobilities of DNA molecules from JM125A Lanes from a
preparative vertical gel run at 80 V for 4 h were excised
and either (A) not treated or (B) irradiated with 3000 J/m
254 nm UV. The agarose blocks were then embedded in a
horizontal gel and subjected to electrophoresis at 50 V for
an additional 8 h.


Fig. 1-4. Effects of various enzymatic treatments on
recovery of DNA molecules from JM125A. A cell suspension
was prepared as usual and 10 ul aliqugts were added to
wells preloaded with (A) and (B) standard reaction mixture;
(C) standard reaction mixture lacking RNase; (D) standard
reaction mixture lacking lysozyme. After 1 h, 30 ul
20 mg/ml protease, 20 O/o ficoll in E buffer was added to
well (B). The reaction mixtures were then allowed to
interact an additional 1 h at 40C. Electrophoresis was
for 42 h at 80 V.



Fig. 1-5. Effect of cell number on isolation of DNA
molecules from (A-D) JM125A2 and (E-H) AT181. Electro-
phoresis was at 80 V for 24 h. (A) and (E)
3xl8 cells; (B) and (F) 108 cells; (C) and (G) 3xl07
cells; (D) and (H) 107 cells.

v F

Fig. 1-6. Agarose gel electrophoresis showing
mobilities of JM125Ap DNA molecules in relation to
mobilities of size standard plasmids. Electrophoresis
was at 90 V for 28 h. (A) PpS1239 (pMG1); (B) PpS1240
pMG5); (C) JM125A2; (D) AT181 (pTi,pAT); (E) C600 (RP4)
(F) X125 (F).

-0 13

Fig. 1-7. Agarose gel electrophoresis showing
slowly-migrating DNAs isolated from A. tumefaciens
and E. coli. Electrophoresis was for 24 h at 75 V.
(A) AT181 (pTi,pAT); (B) PpS1239 (pMG1); (C) PpS1240
(pMG5); (D) JM125A2; (E) c600 (RP4); (F) JC182.



Fig. 1-8. Agarose gel electrophoresis showing
recovery of slowly-migrating DNA from three of four
E. coli strains. The strains run in lanes (G) and (H)
do not harbor plasmids. Electrophoresis was for 24 h
at 60 V. (A) X1254; (B) PpS1239 (pMG1); (C) JM125A ;
(D) AT181 (pTi,pAT); (E c600 (RP4); (F) PpS1240 (pGS);
(G) E. coli C; (H) JC182.

Fig. 1-9. Standard curve relating electrophoretic mobilities of size marker
plasmids and JM125A2 DNA molecules to their molecular weights. Horizontal lines
represent one standard deviation to either side of the average normalized mobility.

chromosome (3)

pXX1 (7)

pAZ2 (18)

! (20)
pXX2 (14)
^zpAZ4 (20)




g 300


pTi (15)

F (8)

pAZ7 (20)

RP4 (12)



0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8


0.9 1.0

pAZI (12

-pMG5 (16)








100 V

0.5 O.t 0.7 0.8 0.9


Fig. 1-10. Comparison of mobilities of standard
plasmids in gels run at different voltages. The 50 V
gel was run for 42 h and the 100 V gel for 24 h.



Genetic material in the genus Azospirillum appears to

be arranged in a manner unusual for bacteria. Rather than

possessing a single large chromosome with or without acces-

sory DNA in the form of plasmids, Azospirillum strains

harbor unique arrays of up to eight different-sized co-

valently closed circular (CCC) DNA molecules, the largest

estimated to be 1500 megadaltons (Mdal) (see Chapter I).

The occurrence of so many molecules intermediate in size

between what is normally considered to be very large for a

plasmid (300 Mdal) and what would be considered a small

chromosome (1500 Mdal) makes the usual plasmid/chromosome

dichotomy less than obvious in these bacteria.

Plasmid DNA is generally defined as encoding functions

not essential for cell growth under usual conditions.

Growth of plasmid-harboring bacteria in the presence of

acridine orange (AO) often permits the isolation, at an in-

creased frequency, of strains which have been "cured" of the

plasmid (30). We therefore grew a representative strain of

A. lipoferum and one of A. brasilense in AO-containing

medium and tested individual colonies for a variety of

nonessential phenotypic traits. Since the capacity for

nitrogen fixation can be considered nonessential, the potentially

mutant colonies were tested for growth on nitrogen-free

medium. In addition, because of the blurring of the distinction

between plasmid and chromosome in these bacteria, all colonies

were screened for auxotrophy. Mutant colonies identified in

this manner were analyzed for DNA content by agarose gel


The present communication describes the successful cor-

relation of three phenotypic properties with the presence of

a specific plasmid in both Azospirillum strains examined.

Furthermore, we report the isolation of a mutant having

suffered multiple deletions in its DNA molecules and the

isolation of both Nif and auxotrophic strains for which no

obvious loss of DNA could be demonstrated.

Materials and Methods

Bacteria. A. brasilense JM125A2 and A. lipoferum

SpUSA5b were obtained from N. R. Krieg. Mutant strains

derived from them are listed in Table 2-1.

Media. The succinate/mineral salts medium described by

Okon et al. (50) was used for nitrogen-free growth. The

same medium supplemented with 0.5% (NH )2SO4 was used as

minimal agar (MA). Carbon-free agar (CFA) was MA lacking

succinate. Carbon source utilization tests were done on MA

with the appropriate carbon source replacing succinate at a

concentration of 1%. Sensitivities of bacteria to inhibitors

were determined on nutrient agar (Difco) supplemented with

0.01% yeast extract and filter-sterilized antibiotics or

separately-autoclaved heavy metal salts.

Curing. Bacteria were treated with AO as described by

Hirota (30), except that the pH was 8.0. The maximum concen-

tration of AO which consistently permitted growth was 2.5 g/ml.

Detection of DNA molecules. The electrophoretic method

used to detect the various DNA molecules present in wild

type and mutant strains has been extensively described

elsewhere (see Chapter I).


Table 2-1 lists the types of mutants isolated from cul-

tures of A. brasilense JM125A2 and A. lipoferum SpUSA5b

grown in 2.5 ug/ml AO at pH 8.0 and the approximate fre-

quencies with which they were found to occur in such cul-

tures. No spontaneous mutants (from untreated cultures)

were found.

Isolation of JM125A, mutants with the T phenotype.

Originally, we screened JM125A2 colonies derived from AO-

treated cultures for a number of properties: 1) growth on

minimal agar plates containing arabinose, galactose, ethanol,

or butanol as sole carbon source; 2) sensitivity to tri-

methoprim (since wild type Azospirillum strains are resistant

(3)); and 3) growth on succinate/mineral salts media with and

without (NH4)2SO4. No auxotrophic, Nif Ara Gal or

trimethoprim-sensitive mutants were found. However, mutants

unable to grow on ethanol or butanol were isolated at a high

frequency (Table 2-1). Further testing showed that acetate

or acetaldehyde would support growth of the mutants.

Somewhat surprisingly, wild type colonies grew on the

medium (intended as a control) to which no carbon source had

been added. Growth on the carbon-free agar was slower and

less luxurious than growth on any of the media containing

added carbon. The mutant colonies failed to grow appreciably

on the carbon-free medium. Although it appeared from these

observations that Azospirillum was capable of autotrophic

growth and that the mutants had lost this ability, both wild

type and mutant strains produced a visible band of growth

when a small inoculum (100 cells) was introduced into the

carbon-free soft agar (0.02%) under a predominantly H2/CO2

atmosphere. Others have recently described autotrophic

growth of Azospirillum (60).

Since heavy metal ion resistance is a characteristic

often associated with plasmids in other bacteria (12, 42,

63, 71), we assessed the sensitivities of the mutant and

wild type strains to the salts of seven heavy metals. No

differential sensitivity to Ag, Cu2+, Co2+, Pb2+, Hg2+, or

Ni2+ was observed; however, 3x10-5 M Cd2+ permitted growth

of the wild type but not the mutant strains. Further analysis

showed the mutants to be 30-fold more sensitive than the

wild type to Cd2+ (Table 2-2). We have designated the "T"

phenotype to represent the triad of cadmium sensitivity,

inability to metabolize alcohols, and failure to grow on

carbon-free agar under ambient atmosphere.

Loss of pAZ4 determines the T phenotype in JM125A2.

Figure 2-1 shows the DNA molecules of wild type and mutant

JM125A2 strains fractionated on an agarose gel as described

(see Chapter I). All but one of the T mutants exhibited the

DNA banding pattern represented by 125-T2 (lane D), which is

identical to that of the wild type except for the absence of

pAZ4 (cf. lanes A and D). In contrast, mutant strain 125-T1

appeared to have lost not only pAZ4 but pAZ7 and parts of

pAZ2, pAZ3, pAZ5, and pAZ6 as well (lane B). Table 2-3

compares the estimated sizes of the 125-T1 DNA molecules to

those of wild type JM125A2.

We attempted to determine what functions, if any, could

be ascribed to the DNA missing in 125-T1 but not in 125-T2.

Wild type JM125A2 and its T derivatives displayed similar

sensitivities to UV light, and all reduced nitrate. As

indicated in Table 2-2, however, 125-T2 was 10-fold and

125-T1 was 100-fold more sensitive to kanamycin than was the

wild type. The sensitivities of the three strains to

streptomycin were identical.

Isolation of a Nif derivative of 125-T1. Despite re-

peated screening of colonies derived from nitrosoguanidine

(NG) or AO-treated JM125A2 cultures, we had never been able

to isolate a mutant with the Nif phenotype. The deletion

of approximately 800 Mdal of DNA in 125-T1 (Table 2-3)

suggested that at least 20% of the DNA in JM125A2 is non-

essential. This inference raised the possibility that our

failure to isolate Azospirillum Nif strains by conventional

mutagenesis might be due to occurrence of the nif genes in

more than one copy. Therefore, we screened 2000 colonies

derived from AO-treated 125-TI cultures for growth on

succinate/mineral salts medium with and without (NH4)2SO4.

One mutant was isolated which grew on the minimal medium

only when nitrogen was supplied. This strain (125-T1N1)

also failed to reduce acetylene even in the presence of low

concentrations of (NH4)2SO4 or yeast extract. The electro-

phoretic mobilities of its DNA molecules, however, could not

be distinguished from those of its parent strain (Fig. 2-1,

lanes B and C).

Mutants derived from AO-treated SpUSA5b cultures. We

wondered whether types of mutants similar to the ones iso-

lated from A. brasilense JM125A2 could be isolated from

A. lipoferum SpUSA5b. Only one of 2000 SpUSA5b colonies

derived from AO-treated cultures displayed the T phenotype;

thus, T mutants appear to occur at a somewhat lower fre-

quency in SpUSA5b than in JM125A2. An unexpected finding

was the high frequency of Met auxotrophs (Table 2-1); no

such mutants had been isolated from JM125A2.

Figure 2-2 illustrates the DNA banding patterns of SpUSA5b

and its mutant derivatives. As was the case with JM125A2,

the T phenotype correlated with loss of pAZ4 (lanes A and

B). However, we did not observe obvious differences in

electrophoretic mobility between the DNA molecules of wild

type SpUSA5b and those of a representative Met derivative

(lanes A and C).

125-T1N1 and USA-MI are nonreverting. To investigate

the possibility that 125-T1N1 and USA-MI arose from AO-induced

frameshift mutations, we attempted to isolate revertants of

these strains from untreated, AO-treated, and NG-treated

cultures. No true revertants were found. Slowly-growing
colonies did appear at a frequency of approximately 10 when

untreated 125-TIN1 was plated on nitrogen-free agar. However,

when restreaked on fresh nitrogen-free plates they failed to

flourish, and they were unable to reduce acetylene. Further-

more, their isolation frequency was enhanced to a much

greater extent by NG than by AO.

A similar situation occurred with potential Met revertants

of USA-Mi. Colonies arising on minimal agar grew when

restreaked on fresh minimal plates, but growth on all types

of media was slower than wild type growth. Like the pseudo-

revertants of 125-TIN1, their isolation frequency was in-

creased significantly by NG but only marginally by AO.

These Met strains also displayed a deep reddish pigmentation,

whereas colonies of our other SpUSA5b strains are peach



The results show that pAZ4-JM125A2 and pAZ4-SpUSA5b
R +
determine, for their respective hosts, the CadR, Adh+ and

Cfa+ phenotypes. The two plasmids are not entirely homo-

logous, however, since the electrophoretic mobility of

pAZ4-SpUSA5b is slightly lower than that of pAZ4-JM125A2

(see Chapter I). Loss of pAZ4-JM125A2 at a high frequency

in AO-treated JM125A2 cultures is consistent with the known

curing effects of acridine dyes (30). On the other hand,

high-frequency AO-induced methionine auxotrophy and

AO-induced multiple deletions in DNA have not been


The sensitivities of wild type and mutant Azospirillum

strains to cadmium are, interestingly enough, comparable to

the sensitivities exhibited by CadR and CadS Staphylococcus

aureus strains (11). Recently, cadmium resistance in

S. aureus has been shown to depend on an energy-dependent,

plasmid-encoded efflux system (53, 69). A similar system

may operate to confer cadmium resistance in Azospirillum.

Alternatively, the configuration of membrane proteins in

Azospirillum T mutants may result in a lesser degree of

thiol group shielding than occurs in the wild type (58).

Growth of the T mutants on acetate and acetaldehyde but

not on ethanol implies the existence of an alcohol dehydro-

genase encoded by pAZ4-JM125A2 and pAZ4-SpUSA5b. The basis

for the inability of the T mutants to flourish on carbon-free

agar under ambient atmosphere is less obvious. The defect

does not appear to be in the capacity for autotrophy per se,

as both mutant and wild type strains grow in carbon-free

soft agar under an autotrophic atmosphere. Biosynthesis of

ribulose diphosphate carboxylase in other bacteria has been

shown to be repressed under conditions of high oxygen tension

(37). Therefore, a single cell plated on carbon-free agar

under ambient atmosphere cannot immediately begin to grow

autotrophically; it must instead utilize some intracellular

carbon reserve to grow and divide several times, so that an

aerobic layer of cells is formed under which a micro-

aerophilic environment is created. Azospirillum strains

do, in fact, accumulate large amounts of poly-B-hydroxy-

butyrate (PHB), particularly (but not exclusively) when

grown in nitrogen-free media (49). Although the T mutants

as well as the wild type can be seen microscopically to

contain PHB granules, it is possible that they have

difficulty utilizing this storage polymer for growth.

The discovery that one of the T mutants (125-T1) had

suffered multiple deletions in its DNA molecules is an

observation which may be relevant to the proposed mode of

action of AO in plasmid elimination. Some investigators

have suggested that plasmids, owing to their relatively

small size, are more accessible to AO than is the bacterial

chromosome (52) or that AO selectively inhibits plasmid

replication (31, 32). In contrast, others have maintained

that AO causes nonspecific loss of DNA via inhibition of

polymerase I (4, 5); since only cells having lost nonessential

DNA survive, this nonspecific mode of action translates into

an apparent specificity for plasmid (i.e. nonessential) DNA.

Assuming that the generation of 125-T1 really was AO-mediated

and not merely a spontaneous event which happened to occur

in an AO-treated culture, our results tend to support the

idea of a nonspecific interaction of AO with DNA. If AO

specifically interacted with or inhibited replication of

plasmid DNA, one would not expect to observe partially

deleted plasmids unless those plasmids were capable of

dissociation into self-replicating component molecules. The

possibility of four DNA molecules undergoing dissociation of

this kind within the same cell seems remote.

Wild and mutant JM125A2 strains displayed three levels

of sensitivity to kanamycin, correlating with degree of DNA

loss. This tends to implicate two or more proteins or one

protein encoded by two or more loci (on at least two DNA

molecules) in the determination of kanamycin sensitivity

levels in Azospirillum. Furthermore, these proteins must

act specifically on kanamycin and not on aminoglycosides in

general, since the sensitivities of the various mutants to

streptomycin were identical. Several types of aminoglycoside

modifying enzymes have been described in other bacteria, but

the mechanism by which the modified antibiotic confers

resistance is not known (17). The mechanism of aminoglycoside

uptake by sensitive cells is also obscure (17).

The Met derivatives of SpUSA5b and the Nif derivative

of 125-T1 possess DNA molecules whose electrophoretic mobilities

cannot readily be distinguished from those of their parent

strains. These phenomena may be accounted for in one of

three ways. First, the mutants might have arisen via the

action of AO as a frameshift mutagen (15, 52). This possibil-

ity seems unlikely in view of the observed inability of AO

to promote reversions in the mutant strains. Furthermore,

the frameshift action of acridine dyes has been described

primarily in bacteriophage (15, 52); frameshift mutagenesis

of bacteria at the frequencies reported here has not been

described. A second possibility is that the mutants are

deleted for all or part of a molecule not identified by the

electrophoretic method used. This explanation also seems

rather unlikely since we have used the method to identify

molecules as large as the E. coli chromosome (see Chapter I).

The third, and most likely, possibility is that the mutants

carry deletions not large enough to lead to obvious differences

in mobility for the affected molecules. Thus, 125-T1N1

might have arisen by deletion of the entire nif cluster from

pAZ1-JM125A2 (1500 Mdal); the wild type and mutant pAZ1-

JM125A2 molecules, differing in molecular weight by only 1%,

would not be resolved by electrophoresis. We are currently

attempting to determine whether this is the case by hybridizing

a labeled nif probe to Southern blots (65) of fragmented

mutant and wild type molecules.

Table 2-1. Azospirillum mutants isolated
after growth in acridine orange

Parent Strain Mutant Phenotypea Isolation




125-T1 Adh-Cfa-CadSKanS2
125-T2 Adh-Cfa-CadSKanS1
125-T1N1 Adh-Cfa-CadSKanS2Nif-
USA-T100 Adh-Cfa-CadSKanS1

USA-M1 Met

5x10 4
5x10 4


Adh = No growth on ethanol or butanol
Cfa = No growth on minimal medium lacking added carbon
CadS= Sensitive to 3x10 5 M CdCl2
KanS1= Sensitive to 3 mg/ml kanamycin
Kan 2= Sensitive to 0.3 mg/ml kanamycin
Nif = No growth on nitrogen-free medium; no acetylene
Met = Requires methionine for growth


Table 2-2. Sensitivities of
wild type and mutant Azospirillum strains
to cadmium, kanamycin, and streptomycin

Minimal inhibitory concentration

Strain [Cd2+],M [Kn], pg/ml [Sm],Ig/ml
-4 30 30
JM125A2 104 30 30
125-T1 3x10-6 0.3 30
125-T1N1 3x10-6 0.3 30
125-T2 3x10-6 3 30

Table 2-3. Estimated sizes
of DNA molecules
found in JM125A2 and 125-T1

Plasmid JM125A2 125-T1 deletion

pAZ1 1500 1500 -
pAZ2 1200 1100 100
pAZ3 640 430 210
pAZ4 400 400
pAZ5 360 320 40
pAZ6 130 95 35
pAZ7 46 46
total 4276 3445 831

Note: Sizes are in megadaltons. Sizes
of JM125A2 molecules were taken from
Table 1-3. 125-T1 sizes were deter-
mined from mobilities in Fig. 2-1.


Fig. 2-1. Agarose gel electrophoresis showing
DNA molecules recovered from wild type and mutant
JM125A strains: (A) JMI25A2; (B) 125-T1; (C) 125-TlNl;
(D) 12 -T2. Electrophoresis was for 23 h at 90 V.


Fig. 2-2. Agarose gel electrophoresis showing
DNA molecules isolated from wild type and mutant
SpUSA5b strains: (A) SpUSA5b; (B) USA-T100;
(C) USA-Mi. Electrophoresis was at 80 V for 31 h.



In previous chapters we showed that strains of

Azospirillum brasilense and A. lipoferum harbor unique

arrays of large circular DNA molecules and that phenotypically

altered strains, some exhibiting a change in plasmid array,

could be isolated at a high frequency from cultures treated

with acridine orange. We now address the question of which

of these molecules determines the phenotype of greatest

general interest, i.e. nitrogen fixation. We had hoped that

the Nif- derivative of JM125A2 would show a change in the

mobility of one or more of its DNA molecules, but such was

not the case. We therefore decided to try a different

approach to the problem, based on molecular hybridization.

The structural genes for nitrogenase are thought to

have been either introduced recently in evolutionary history

into the various nitrogen-fixing bacteria or conserved to a

greater extent than other translated prokaryotic genes (59).

The basis for this view is the observation that Klebsiella

pneumoniae nif structural genes can hybridize to DNA from

all types of nitrogen-fixing prokaryotes, including both

Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, Actinomycetes, and

Cyanobacteria (59). This interspecies homology has been

exploited to study the organization of nif genes in

blue-green algae (39). Although Azospirillum DNA has not

been examined for homology to Klebsiella nif DIIA, there is

no reason to think that Azospirillum would behave differently

from other nitrogen-fixing prokaryotes in this regard,

especially since the individual Azospirillum nitrogenase

subunit proteins can form active complexes in vitro with

complementary proteins from other nitrogen-fixing bacteria


We obtained, from W. Klipp (36), an Escherichia coli

strain harboring pWK27, a recombinant plasmid which includes

an EcoRI fragment carrying the nifK, nifD, and nifH genes

from K. pneumoniae. This molecule was isolated in large

quantity, labeled to high specific activity by nick trans-

lation (57), and hybridized to Southern blots (65) of gels

containing DNA molecules from wild type and mutant Azospirillum

strains. The very limited success we have achieved with

this technique indicates that pAZ1, the largest of the

Azospirillum molecules, carries the nif structural genes in


Materials and Methods

Bacterial strains. HB101(pWK27) was supplied by W. Klipp

(36). Origins of Azospirillum strains are described in

Table 1-1 (Chapter I) and Table 2-1 (Chapter II).

Isolation of pWK27. To one liter of cell culture grown

at 370C to Klett 90 was added 170 mg chloramphenicol. The

cells were incubated at 370C for 20 h, harvested, washed

with 10 mM NaC1, and resuspended in 6 ml 0.02 M EDTA, 0.025

M Tris, 0.9% glucose (pH 8.0). Lysozyme (12 mg) was added

and the cells were chilled on ice for 30 min. Next, 12 ml

0.08% NaOH, 0.8% SDS was added and the lysate was gently

swirled for 5 min. Following addition, with gentle mixing,

of 9 ml KAc (pH 4.8), the lysate was incubated on ice for 2

h. The lysate was then centrifuged at 15,000 rpm for 30 min

and the supernatant solution was transferred to a fresh

tube. The addition of PEG 6000 to a final concentration of

10% followed by incubation on ice for 2 h caused the plasmid

to precipitate and it was pelleted at 2,500 rpm for 5 min.

The pellet was resuspended in 2 ml 50mM Tris, ImM EDTA

(pH 8.0). Ribonuclease was added to a concentration of

5 g/ml and the solution was incubated at 37C for 30 min.

Following adjustment of the volume to 10 ml with 50 mM Tris,

ImM EDTA (pH 8.0), the solution was extracted twice each

with phenol/chloroform, chloroform, and ether. Residual

ether was blown off with air. The plasmid was then ethanol

precipitated, washed in 70% ethanol, and further purified by

dye bouyant density ultracentrifugation. Plasmid bands,

visualized with UV light, were removed from the centrifuge

tubes with a plastic syringe. Ethidium bromide was removed

by extraction with isopropanol and CsC1 by dialysis against

three changes (2 1 each) of 25 mM Tris, 1 mM EDTA.

Blotting. Agarose gels containing separated Azospirillum

DNA molecules were prepared as described in Chapter I. DNA

from the gels was blotted onto strips of nitrocellulose

according to the method of Wahl et al. (70). This is a

slight modification of Southern's original technique (65).

The gels are treated with 0.25 M HCI as an initial step in

order to partially depurinate the DNA and fragment it for

more efficient transfer.

Nick translation of pWK27. The probe was labeled with
P according to the method described by Rigby et al. (57).
One hundred microCuries Pa-dCTP was dried under vacuum in a

1.5 ml microfuge tube. To this was added 5 1p 0.5 M Tris, 0.1 M

B-mercaptoethanol, 0.05 M MgCl2; 24 1 of a 1:1:1 dNTP mix (200

mM each); 1 g pWK27 DNA; and water to make 48 p 1 total

volume. After 5 min at 300C, 1 p 1 diluted, activated DNase

I was added. (DNase was activated by diluting a 1 mg/ml

stock in 10 mM HC1 1:2000 into 10 mM Tris, 5 mM MgCl2, i

mg/ml BSA (pH 7.6)). After 2 min at 300C, 0.5 p1 DNA

polymerase I (5 U/ml) was added and the reaction was held

at 150C for 1 h, whereupon it was terminated by the addition

of 5 P1 0.25 M EDTA. The reaction mixture was extracted

with phenol and the labeled plasmid was separated from the

unincorporated nucleotides by passage through a Sepharose 4B

or Sephadex G-100 column or by electrophoresis through a

0.7% low melting point agarose gel.

Hybridization. All hybridizations and prehybridizations

were carried out in Sears Seal-n-Save plastic bags. Filters

were prehybridized for a minimum of 12 h at 65C in a solu-

tion consisting of 0.5% SDS, 20 g/ml denatured salmon sperm

DNA, 10x Denhardt's solution (20), 2.5x SSC, and 0.05 M

Na2HPO4 (pH 8.0). Hybridizations were carried out under the

same conditions except that Ix Denhardt's solution was used

and denatured, labeled pWK27 was included. The washing

protocol of Thomashow et al. was followed (68). This consists

of one 30 min wash with 2.5x SSC at room temperature followed

by four washes (30 min each) with 2.5x SSC at 650C and one

wash at 650C with 0.1x SSC.

Autoradiography. The dried filters were exposed to

X-ray film at -70oC in the presence of an intensifying

screen. Exposure times were 2 h for the control hybridi-

zation of pWK27 to its restriction fragments and a minimum

of 1 week for the Azospirillum hybridizations.

Results and Discussion

Table 3-1 summarizes the variations in protocol and

outcomes of five hybridization experiments. Both Fig. 3-2

and Fig 3-4 were taken from Experiment 2. Despite the

somewhat disappointing results, we can conclude from Fig.

3-4 that the Azospirillum nif structural genes are carried

on pAZl, the molecule which probably represents the chromo-

some of these bacteria.

Since the control hybridization (Fig. 3-2) gave such a

strong signal it is doubtful that our difficulty in detect-

ing Azospirillum nif sequences reflects a serious flaw in

experimental procedure. Rather, the problem seems to be one

of sensitivity; the autoradiogram illustrated in Fig. 3-4

required 8 days exposure and shows only faint bands of

hybridization. There would appear to be two explanations

for this low level of hybridization. First, assuming that


the Azospirillum nif genes are carried on pAZ1, less than

0.5% of the DNA in the band representing pAZ1 is capable of

hybridizing to the probe. Second, since there is some

degree of divergence in the DNA sequences of nif structural

genes in various bacteria (59), the probe DNA is not entirely

homologous to that portion of pAZ1 which is capable of

hybridization. DNA preparations from different strains of

Rhizobium hybridize with differing intensities to Klebsiella

nif DNA (59). We do not think that the low level of hybrid-

ization exhibited by Azospirillum DNA reflects poor transfer

from gel to nitrocellulose. Gels were always restained and

examined for DNA after transfer; none was ever found.

Table 3-1. Summary of results of hybridization experiments

Specific activity Labeled Purification Method of Hybridi-
Expt. of probea nucleotide of probe DNA transfer nation?

1 1.6x108 dCTP Sepharose 4B Southern no
2 9.1x107 dCTP Sepharose 4B Southern yes
3 2.2x107 dCTP Sepharose 4B electroblot no
4 1.8x107 dCTP Sephadex G-100 electroblot no
5 2.2x107 dCTP electrophoresis Southern no

acpm per jg DNA


Fig. 3-1. Agarose gel electrophoresis of pWK27
digested with HindIII (D-F) or EcoRI (G-I). Some
undigested OC and CCC plasmid DNA is visible. Lanes
(A-C) and (J) show lambda HindIII fragments used as
size standards. Volumes of DNA solutions added to
wells were as follows: (A) 1 ul; (B,J) 2 ul; (C) 4 ul;
(D,G) 3 ul; (E,H) 6 ul; (F,I) 9 ul. Electrophoresis
was at 60 V for 4 h.



Fig. 3-2. Autoradiogram of gel shown in Fig. 3-1.
Gel was blotted and hybridized to labeled pWK27 as
described in the text. Exposure was for 2 h.
(A-C,J) HindIII-digested lambda; (D-F) HindIII-digested
pWK27; (G-I) EcoRI-digested pWK27.


Fig. 3-3. Agarose gel electrophoresis showing
DNA molecules recovered from Azospirillum strains
of diverse geographic origin. Electrophoresis was
for 30 h at 80 V. A. brasilense strains: (A) Sp7;
(B) Spl3t; (C) Sp84; (D) Cd; (E) JM82A ; (F JM125A2.
A. lipoferum strains: (G) SpUSA5b; (H) SpRG6xx.


Fig. 3-4. Autoradiogram of gel shown in Fig. 3-3.
The gel was trimmed of material above pAZ1, blotted
onto nitrocellulose, and hybridized to labeled pWK27
as described in the text. Exposure was for 8 days.
(A) Sp7; (B) Spl3t; (C) Sp84; (D) Cd; (E) JM82A1;
(F) JM125A 2; (G) SpUSA5b; (H) SpRG6xx.


In order to calculate a regression line relating electro-

phoretic mobility to molecular weight, it was necessary

to pool mobility data from 20 gels run for various lengths

of time under slightly differing conditions. Therefore,

the mobility data from 19 of the gels had to be normalized

to the data from one gel chosen as a standard. The gel

illustrated in Fig. 1-6 was chosen as the standard because

it includes the greatest number (15) of DNA bands.

The standard gel was designated B and the mobilities

of its DNA bands were B1, B2,...., Bn. The mobilities

of the bands in gel A (which had in common with gel B n different

plasmid bands numbered 1,2,...,n) were designated

A1, A2,..., An. The constant Ka was calculated for

which the expression

I KaAi-Bil/(KaAi+Bi)

where i=1,2,...,n

was at a minimum.

Then the mobilities of the plasmids in gel A were multi-

plied by Ka. A different Ka was calculated for each gel

to be normalized. 58


If the logarithms of the average normalized mobilities

of the standard plasmids were designated as X1, X2,...Xn and

the logarithms of their molecular weights (in megadaltons)

were designated Y1, Y2'" .Yn then the logarithm of the

molecular weight (Yt) of the unknown molecule could be

calculated from the logarithm of its mobility (Xt) according

to the formula

Yt= A+BXt

where A=T-BX

B = EXiY (EXi)(zYi)

X 2 (Zxi)2

S= EXi/n

S= EYi/n


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The author was born Alvin Gleave Wood on October 5,

1951, in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is the only son of

Mary Gleave Harris and the late Rowland Emery Wood. Follow-

ing graduation from Northeast High School in St. Petersburg,

he attended the University of Chicago and received a B.A. in

biology in June 1973. He received his M.S. degree from the

Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, University of

Florida, 1978. He is currently a candidate for the degree

of Doctor of Philosophy, also in the Department of Microbiology

and Cell Science.

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable stand rds of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in/scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor-of -Philosophy.

/ // 9: / // (_
Dennis. E. Duggan,,Chairman
Associate Professor of
Microbiology and Cell Science

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy)

; .- t""/ ,//
Francis C. Davis, Jr./
Associate Professor of
Microbiology and Cell Science

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

- . ., '..
Lonnie 0. Ingram
Associate Professor of
Microbiology and Cell Science

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of P ilosophy. 4
/ !/ / ','

William W. Hauswirth
Associate Professor of Immunology
and Medical Microbiology

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
the College of Agriculture and to the Graduate Council, and
was accepted as partial fulfillment of he requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy./ ,

May 1982 X 1
Deal//College of Agri-ulture

Dean for Graduate Studies and

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