The role of hopanoids in fortifying rhizobia against a changing climate

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Bacteria are a globally sustainable source of fixed nitrogen, which is essential for life and crucial for modern agriculture. Many nitrogen-fixing bacteria are agriculturally important, including bacteria known as rhizobia that participate in growth-promoting symbioses with legume plants throughout the world. To be effective symbionts, rhizobia must overcome multiple environmental challenges: from surviving in the soil, to transitioning to the plant environment, to maintaining high metabolic activity within root nodules. Climate change threatens to exacerbate these challenges, especially through fluctuations in soil water potential. Understanding how rhizobia cope with environmental stress is crucial for maintaining agricultural yields in the coming century. The bacterial outer membrane is the first line of defence against physical and chemical environmental stresses, and lipids play a crucial role in determining the robustness of the outer membrane. In particular, structural remodelling of lipid A and sterol-analogues known as hopanoids are instrumental in stress acclimation. Here, we discuss how the unique outer membrane lipid composition of rhizobia may underpin their resilience in the face of increasing osmotic stress expected due to climate change, illustrating the importance of studying microbial membranes and highlighting potential avenues towards more sustainable soil additives.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2906-2918
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021

External IDs

Scopus 85106607363


Sustainable Development Goals

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