Metallophore profiling of nitrogen-fixing Frankia spp. to understand metal management in the rhizosphere of actinorhizal plants
Frankia spp. are widespread nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria, which often live in symbiosis with a broad range of hosts. Metal homeostasis plays a crucial role in the success of the symbiosis regarding the acquisition of essential trace metals and detoxification of potentially toxic elements. We have hypothesised that Frankia releases many organic ligands with a broad spectrum of affinity for essential and toxic metals. We coined the term ‘ligandosphere’ to describe the entirety of excreted metal complexing agents and ligands derived from the dissolved organic matter. Using metal isotope-coded profiling (MICP); metallophores of physiological important and toxic trace metals were identified by the addition of stable metal isotope pairs such as 54Fe/58Fe, 63Cu/65Cu, 66Zn/68Zn or 95Mo/98Mo. Liquid chromatography coupled to a mass spectrometer revealed strong variations of the metallophore profile in between the 14 test-strains. In total, about 83 organic ligands were identified as binding to one of the tested metals. The predicted sum formula of the major Fe binding ligands and MS/MS experiments suggested that several metallophore candidates have a similar molecular backbone. Growth experiments with a hyper-producer of metallophores revealed a positive relationship between metallophore production and the concentration of Cu in the growth medium. The present study provides the first comprehensive overview of the complexity of Frankia's ligandosphere. It opens a path to a deeper understanding of mechanisms that regulate metal homeostasis in frankiae. Deciphering these mechanisms is important since the fitness of actinorhizal plants and their potential in ecological restoration relies heavily on their symbiosis with frankiae.