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Int Rev Cytol. 2004;234:201-62.

Organogenesis of legume root nodules.

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  • 1Institute of Genetics and Biophysics Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 80125 Naples, Italy.


The N(2)-fixing nodules elicited by rhizobia on legume roots represent a useful model for studying plant development. Nodule formation implies a complex progression of temporally and spatially regulated events of cell differentiation/dedifferentiation involving several root tissues. In this review we describe the morphogenetic events leading to the development of these histologically well-structured organs. These events include (1) root hair deformation, (2) development and growth of infection threads, (3) induction of the nodule primordium, and (4) induction, activity, and persistence of the nodular meristem and/or of foci of meristematic activities. Particular attention is given to specific aspects of the symbiosis, such as the early stages of intracellular invasion and to differentiation of the intracellular form of rhizobia, called symbiosomes. These developmental aspects were correlated with (1) the regulatory signals exchanged, (2) the plant genes expressed in specific cell types, and (3) the staining procedures that allow the recognition of some cell types. When strictly linked with morphogenesis, the nodulation phenotypes of plant and bacterial mutants such as the developmental consequence of the treatment with metabolic inhibitors, metabolic intermediates, or the variation of physical parameters are described. Finally, some aspects of nodule senescence and of regulation of nodulation are discussed.

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