Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Nitrogen-ﬁxing bacteria collectively called rhizobia are adapted to live in polyphenol-rich environments. The mechanisms that allow these bacteria to overcome toxic concentrations of plant polyphenols have not been clearly elucidated. We used a crude extract of polyphenols released from the seed coat of the black bean to simulate a polyphenol-rich environment and analyze the response of the bean-nodulating strain Rhizobium etli CFN42. Our results showed that the viability of the wild type as well as that of derivative strains cured of plasmids p42a, p42b, p42c, and p42d or lacking 200 kb of plasmid p42e was not affected in this environment. In contrast, survival of the mutant lacking plasmid p42f was severely diminished. Complementation analysis revealed that the katG gene located on this plasmid, encoding the only catalase present in this bacterium, restored full resistance to testa polyphenols. Our results indicate that oxidation of polyphenols due to interaction with bacterial cells results in the production of a high quantity of H2O2, whose removal by the katG-encoded catalase plays a key role for cell survival in a polyphenol-rich environment.