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J Bacteriol. 1987 Jun; 169(6): 2828–2834.
PMCID: PMC212195

Nitrogen-fixing nodules induced by Agrobacterium tumefaciens harboring Rhizobium phaseoli plasmids.


Rhizobium phaseoli CFN299 forms nitrogen-fixing nodules in Phaseolus vulgaris (bean) and in Leucaena esculenta. It has three plasmids of 185, 225, and 410 kilobases. The 410-kilobase plasmid contains the nitrogenase structural genes. We have transferred these plasmids to the plasmid-free strain Agrobacterium tumefaciens GMI9023. Transconjugants containing different combinations of the R. phaseoli plasmids were obtained, and they were exhaustively purified before nodulation was assayed. Only transconjugants harboring the 410-kilobase plasmid nodulate P. vulgaris and L. esculenta. Nodules formed by all such transconjugants are able to reduce acetylene. Transconjugants containing the whole set of plasmids from CFN299 nodulate better and fix more nitrogen than the transconjugants carrying only the Sym plasmid. Microscopic analysis of nodules induced by A. tumefaciens transconjugants reveals infected cells and vascular bundles. None of the A. tumefaciens transconjugants, not even the one with the whole set of plasmids from CFN299, behaves in symbiosis like the original R. phaseoli strain; the transconjugants produce fewer nodules and have lower acetylene reduction (25% as compared to the original R. phaseoli strain) and more amyloplasts per nodule. More than 2,000 bacterial isolates from nodules of P. vulgaris and L. esculenta formed by the transconjugants were analyzed by different criteria. Not a single rhizobium could be detected. Our results show that R. phaseoli plasmids may be expressed in the A. tumefaciens background and direct the formation of effective, differentiated nodules.

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