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Plant J. 2009 Jan;57(1):171-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03676.x. Epub 2008 Sep 30.

Flavones and flavonols play distinct critical roles during nodulation of Medicago truncatula by Sinorhizobium meliloti.

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Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, 975 N. Warson Road, Saint Louis, MO 63132, USA.

Erratum in

  • Plant J. 2009 May;58(3):538.


Flavonoids play critical roles in legume-rhizobium symbiosis. However, the role of individual flavonoid compounds in this process has not yet been clearly established. We silenced different flavonoid-biosynthesis enzymes to generate transgenic Medicago truncatula roots with different flavonoid profiles. Silencing of chalcone synthase, the key entry-point enzyme for flavonoid biosynthesis led to flavonoid-deficient roots. Silencing of isoflavone synthase and flavone synthase led to roots deficient for a subset of flavonoids, isoflavonoids (formononetin and biochanin A) and flavones (7,4'-dihydroxyflavone), respectively. When tested for nodulation by Sinorhizobium meliloti, flavonoid-deficient roots had a near complete loss of nodulation, whereas flavone-deficient roots had reduced nodulation. Isoflavone-deficient roots nodulated normally, suggesting that isoflavones might not play a critical role in M. truncatula nodulation, even though they are the most abundant root flavonoids. Supplementation of flavone-deficient roots with 7, 4'-dihydroxyflavone, a major inducer of S. meliloti nod genes, completely restored nodulation. However, the same treatment did not restore nodulation in flavonoid-deficient roots, suggesting that other non-nod gene-inducing flavonoid compounds are also critical to nodulation. Supplementation of roots with the flavonol kaempferol (an inhibitor of auxin transport), in combination with the use of flavone pre-treated S. meliloti cells, completely restored nodulation in flavonoid-deficient roots. In addition, S. meliloti cells constitutively producing Nod factors were able to nodulate flavone-deficient roots, but not flavonoid-deficient roots. These observations indicated that flavones might act as internal inducers of rhizobial nod genes, and that flavonols might act as auxin transport regulators during nodulation. Both these roles of flavonoids appear critical for symbiosis in M. truncatula.

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