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New Phytol. 2011 Jul;191(2):391-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2011.03718.x. Epub 2011 Jun 17.

MtbHLH1, a bHLH transcription factor involved in Medicago truncatula nodule vascular patterning and nodule to plant metabolic exchanges.

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Laboratoire des Interactions Plantes Microorganismes, Unité Mixte de Recherche, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique-Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 441/2594, Castanet Tolosan, France.


This study aimed at defining the role of a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor gene from Medicago truncatula, MtbHLH1, whose expression is upregulated during the development of root nodules produced upon infection by rhizobia bacteria. We used MtbHLH1 promoter::GUS fusions and quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction analyses to finely characterize the MtbHLH1 expression pattern. We altered MtbHLH1 function by expressing a dominantly repressed construct (CRES-T approach) and looked for possible MtbHLH1 target genes by transcriptomics. We found that MtbHLH1 is expressed in nodule primordia cells derived from pericycle divisions, in nodule vascular bundles (VBs) and in uninfected cells of the nitrogen (N) fixation zone. MtbHLH1 is also expressed in root tips, lateral root primordia cells and root VBs, and induced upon auxin treatment. Altering MtbHLH1 function led to an unusual phenotype, with a modified patterning of nodule VB development and a reduced growth of aerial parts of the plant, even though the nodules were able to fix atmospheric N. Several putative MtbHLH1 regulated genes were identified, including an asparagine synthase and a LOB (lateral organ boundary) transcription factor. Our results suggest that the MtbHLH1 gene is involved in the control of nodule vasculature patterning and nutrient exchanges between nodules and roots.

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