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Microbiology. 2006 Nov;152(Pt 11):3167-74.

Rhizobia and plant-pathogenic bacteria: common infection weapons.

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  • 1Departamento de Microbiología del Suelo y Sistemas Simbióticos, Estación Experimental del Zaidín, CSIC, Profesor Albareda 1, Granada, Spain.


Plant-interacting micro-organisms can establish either mutualistic or pathogenic associations. Although the outcome is completely different, common molecular mechanisms that mediate communication between the interacting partners seem to be involved. Specifically, nitrogen-fixing bacterial symbionts of legume plants, collectively termed rhizobia, and phytopathogenic bacteria have adopted similar strategies and genetic traits to colonize, invade and establish a chronic infection in the plant host. Quorum-sensing signals and identical two-component regulatory systems are used by these bacteria to coordinate, in a cell density-dependent manner or in response to changing environmental conditions, the expression of important factors for host colonization and infection. The success of invasion and survival within the host also requires that rhizobia and pathogens suppress and/or overcome plant defence responses triggered after microbial recognition, a process in which surface polysaccharides, antioxidant systems, ethylene biosynthesis inhibitors and virulence genes are involved.

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