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J Exp Bot. 2012 Jan;63(1):393-401. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err291. Epub 2011 Sep 20.

Interplay of flg22-induced defence responses and nodulation in Lotus japonicus.

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Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center, Botanical Institute, University of Basel, Hebelstrasse 1, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


In this study the interplay between the symbiotic and defence signalling pathways in Lotus japonicus was investigated by comparing the responses to Mesorhizobium loti, the symbiotic partner of L. japonicus, and the elicitor flg22, a conserved peptide motif present in flagellar protein of a wide range of bacteria. It was found that defence and symbiotic pathways overlap in the interaction between L. japonicus and M. loti since similar responses were induced by the mutualistic bacteria and flg22. However, purified flagellin from M. loti did not induce any response in L. japonicus, which suggests the production of other elicitors by the symbiotic bacteria. Defence responses induced by flg22 caused inhibition of rhizobial infection and delay in nodule organogenesis, as demonstrated by the negative effect of flg22 in the formation of spontaneous nodules in the snf1 L. japonicus mutant, and the inhibition of NSP1 and NSP2 genes. This indicates the antagonistic effect of the defence pathway on the nodule formation in the initial rhizobium-legume interaction. However, the fact that flg22 did not affect the formation of new nodules once the symbiosis was established indicates that after the colonization of the host plant by the symbiotic partner, the symbiotic pathway has prevalence over the defensive response. This result is also supported by the down-regulation of the expression levels of the flg22 receptor FLS2 in the nodular tissue.

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