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Annu Rev Genet. 2008;42:413-41. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.42.110807.091427.

Molecular determinants of a symbiotic chronic infection.

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Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts 02125, USA.


Rhizobial bacteria colonize legume roots for the purpose of biological nitrogen fixation. A complex series of events, coordinated by host and bacterial signal molecules, underlie the development of this symbiotic interaction. Rhizobia elicit de novo formation of a novel root organ within which they establish a chronic intracellular infection. Legumes permit rhizobia to invade these root tissues while exerting control over the infection process. Once rhizobia gain intracellular access to their host, legumes also strongly influence the process of bacterial differentiation that is required for nitrogen fixation. Even so, symbiotic rhizobia play an active role in promoting their goal of host invasion and chronic persistence by producing a variety of signal molecules that elicit changes in host gene expression. In particular, rhizobia appear to advocate for their access to the host by producing a variety of signal molecules capable of suppressing a general pathogen defense response.

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