Nonlegumes Respond to Rhizobial Nod Factors by Suppressing the Innate Immune Response

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Science  20 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6152, pp. 1384-1387
DOI: 10.1126/science.1242736

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Stealth Nod Factor Recognition

Legumes' symbiotic interaction with nitrogen fixing bacteria supplies the plant with nitrogen. Many important crop plants, however, cannot establish these symbioses and, thus, agriculture depends on externally applied fertilizers. Surprisingly, Liang et al. (p. 1384, published online 5 September) found that several nonleguminous plants, including Arabidopsis, tomato, and corn, were able to respond to the same Nod factors that initiate the microbial symbiosis in soybean.


Virtually since the discovery of nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium-legume symbioses, researchers have dreamed of transferring this capability into nonlegume crop species (for example, corn). In general, nonlegumes were assumed to lack the ability to respond to the rhizobial lipo-chitin Nod factors, which are the essential signal molecules that trigger legume nodulation. However, our data indicate that Arabidopsis thaliana plants, as well as other nonlegumes, recognize the rhizobial Nod factor via a mechanism that results in strong suppression of microbe-associated molecular pattern (MAMP)–triggered immunity. The mechanism of action leads to reduced levels of pattern-recognition receptors on the plasma membrane involved in MAMP recognition.

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