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Plant J. 1997 Mar;11(3):407-20.

A carbonic anhydrase gene is induced in the nodule primordium and its cell-specific expression is controlled by the presence of Rhizobium during development.

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Institut des Sciences Végétales, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


Under nitrogen starvation, Rhizobium meliloti is able to induce nitrogen-fixing nodules on alfalfa roots. Certain alfalfa cultivars spontaneously develop pseudonodules in the absence of bacteria. A transcript, Msca1, expressed in spontaneous and R. meliloti-induced nodules, that codes for a carbonic anhydrase (CA), an enzyme catalyzing the hydration of CO2 has been identified. This is the first CA gene cloned from a non-photosynthetic tissue in plants. Msca1 was activated initially in all cells of the bacterium-induced nodule primordium and was also induced by cytokinin treatment of alfalfa roots. The presence of CA enzymatic activity in different nodule types was demonstrated. Thus, Msca1 is a new early nodulin gene with a function possibly related to the increased amyloplast deposition of the dividing cortical cells. Msca1 transcripts were subsequently found mainly in a peripheral envelope of cells in developing and mature nodules. This novel pattern of gene expression is controlled by the presence of the bacterium inside the nodule. Sucrose synthase and phosphoenol pyruvate carboxylase (PEPC), other genes of the carbon fixation metabolism, were expressed in the same peripheral cells and even more strongly in the nitrogen-fixing region. Analysis of expression patterns of these genes indicated that early CA function may not be related to carbon fixation through PEPC. CA might be acting in pH regulation and/or CO2/HCO3-transport during nodule initiation. Thus, carbonic anhydrase may play different roles at several stages of nodule development and function.

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