Genetics and diversity of rhizobia-legume symbioses
Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, Microbiology
Inside specialized cells of leguminous plants, soil bacteria known collectively as rhizobia convert chemically inert atmospheric nitrogen into a reduced form that sustains plant growth. Efficient nitrogen fixation occurs predominantly inside root nodules, in which rhizobia require establishing persistent intracellular infections. As symbiotic nitrogen fixation occurs only when plants encounter compatible rhizobia, we search to identify the molecular determinants that make the unusually promiscuous Sinorhizobium fredii strain NGR234 capable of forming proficient associations with >135 legume species.
Applied to cultivated crops, rhizobial inoculants contribute to preserve water resources from pollution by excess fertilizers, reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint, and improve soil quality. That commercial inoculants are rapidly outcompeted by indigenous strains, illustrates our still limited understanding of microbe population dynamics along a growing root. To better assess the dynamics of nodulation in fields and diversity of rhizobia-legume solutions that exist in nature, we have established time-of-flight mass spectrometry as a new tool to rapidly and reliably characterize symbiotic strains in situ.
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- genetics of nodulation
- genetics of nitrogen fixation
- gene regulation in rhizobia
- rhizobial diversity in soil
- plant-microbe interactions
- plant responses to microbial infections
- plant-bacteria signalling
- soil biodiversity