Identification and analysis of the melanin biosynthesis gene in the Sinorhizobium meliloti CA15-1 strain were carried out. Tn5 mutants, which lost the ability to synthesize melanin, were obtained. Molecular biological analysis of the mepA gene encoding tyrosinase was performed. In contrast to other members of the Rhizobiacea group, the identical structure of the mepA locus was revealed for all strains of nodule bacteria of the Sinorhizobium genus. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that horizontal transfer of the mepA gene occurred in the course of evolution of bacterial tyrosinases. At the same time, the closely related members of nodule bacteria “acquired” this gene from different sources. Analysis of symbiotic properties of the Mep– mutants of the CA15-1 strain showed that melanin did not affect the ability to go into an efficient symbiosis with alfalfa. Most probably, it is important only at the stages of adaptation of the free-living cells in the environment.
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