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Plant Cell. 1994 Feb;6(2):215-225.

Morphogenetic Rescue of Rhizobium meliloti Nodulation Mutants by trans-Zeatin Secretion.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.


The development of nitrogen-fixing nodules is induced on the roots of legume host plants by Rhizobium bacteria. We employed a novel strategy to probe the underlying mechanism of nodule morphogenesis in alfalfa roots using pTZS, a broad host range plasmid carrying a constitutive trans-zeatin secretion (tzs) gene from Agrobacterium tumefaciens T37. This plasmid suppressed the Nod- phenotype of Rhizobium nodulation mutants such that mutants harboring pTZS stimulated the formation of nodulelike structures. Alfalfa roots formed more or fewer of these nodules according to both the nitrogen content of the environment and the position along the root at which the pTZS+ bacteria were applied, which parallels the physiological and developmental regulation of true Rhizobium nodule formation. This plasmid also conferred on Escherichia coli cells the ability to induce root cortical cell mitoses. Both the pattern of induced cell divisions and the spatially restricted expression of an alfalfa nodule-specific marker gene (MsENOD2) in pTZS-induced nodules support the conclusion that localized cytokinin production produces a phenocopy of nodule morphogenesis.

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