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Plant Physiol. 2006 Jun;141(2):711-20. Epub 2006 Apr 28.

Aging in legume symbiosis. A molecular view on nodule senescence in Medicago truncatula.

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  • 1Department of Plant Systems Biology, Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology, Ghent University, B-9052 Gent, Belgium.


Rhizobia reside as symbiosomes in the infected cells of legume nodules to fix atmospheric nitrogen. The symbiotic relation is strictly controlled, lasts for some time, but eventually leads to nodule senescence. We present a comprehensive transcriptomics study to understand the onset of nodule senescence in the legume Medicago truncatula. Distinct developmental stages with characteristic gene expression were delineated during which the two symbiotic partners were degraded consecutively, marking the switch in nodule tissue status from carbon sink to general nutrient source. Cluster analysis discriminated an early expression group that harbored regulatory genes that might be primary tools to interfere with pod filling-related or stress-induced nodule senescence, ultimately causing prolonged nitrogen fixation. Interestingly, the transcriptomes of nodule and leaf senescence had a high degree of overlap, arguing for the recruitment of similar pathways.

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