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Plant J. 2006 Oct;48(2):261-73.

Endogenous isoflavones are essential for the establishment of symbiosis between soybean and Bradyrhizobium japonicum.

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Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St Louis, MO 63132, USA.


Legume iso/flavonoids have been implicated in the nodulation process, but questions remain as to their specific role(s), and no unequivocal evidence exists showing that these compounds are essential for nodulation. Two hypotheses suggest that the primary role of iso/flavonoids is their ability to induce rhizobial nod gene expression and/or their ability to modulate internal root auxin concentrations. The present work provides direct, genetic evidence that isoflavones are essential for nodulation of soybean roots because of their ability to induce the nodulation genes of Bradyrhizobium japonicum. Expression of isoflavone synthase (IFS), a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of isoflavones, is specifically induced by B. japonicum. When IFS was silenced using RNA interference in soybean hairy root composite plants, these plants had severely reduced nodulation. Surprisingly, pre-treatment of B. japonicum or exogenous application to the root system of either of the major soybean isoflavones, daidzein or genistein, failed to restore normal nodulation. Silencing of chalcone reductase led to very low levels of daidzein and increased levels of genistein, but did not affect nodulation, suggesting that the endogenous production of genistein was sufficient to support nodulation. Consistent with a role for isoflavones as endogenous regulators of auxin transport in soybean roots, silencing of IFS resulted in altered auxin-inducible gene expression and auxin transport. However, use of a genistein-hypersensitive B. japonicum strain or purified B. japonicum Nod signals rescued normal nodulation in IFS-silenced roots, indicating that the ability of isoflavones to modulate auxin transport is not essential to nodulation.

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