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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2009 Sep;69(3):329-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2009.00720.x. Epub 2009 Jun 2.

Phylogenetic diversity of non-nodulating Rhizobium associated with pine ectomycorrhizae.

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Asian Natural Environmental Science Center, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 188-0002, Japan.


Most Rhizobium species described are symbionts that form nodules on legume roots; however, non-nodulating strains of Rhizobium are also widespread in nature. Unfortunately, knowledge of non-nodulating Rhizobium is quite limited compared with nodulating Rhizobium. Here, we studied the phylogenetic diversity of Rhizobium species that inhabit Japanese red pine roots (Pinus densiflora). Because fine roots of pine trees are usually colonized by ectomycorrhizal fungi in nature, we mainly used ectomycorrhizal root tips for bacterial isolation. Out of 1195 bacteria isolated from 75 independent root samples from the field and greenhouse experiments, 102 isolates were confirmed to be Rhizobium following partial 16S rRNA gene analysis. Rhizobium species were occasionally dominant in culturable bacterial communities, whereas no Rhizobium species were isolated from the soil itself. Molecular phylogenetic analyses using 16S rRNA, atpD, and recA gene sequences revealed that isolated Rhizobium strains were phylogenetically diverse and that several were distantly related to known Rhizobium species. Considering that a single species of pine is associated with unique and phylogenetically diverse Rhizobium populations, we should pay more attention to non-nodulating strains to better understand the diversity, ecology, and evolution of the genus Rhizobium and plant-Rhizobium associations.

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