Systemic control of legume susceptibility to rhizobial infection by a mobile microRNA

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Science  12 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6411, pp. 233-236
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6907

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Keeping the doors open for symbiosis

Nitrogen fixation by legumes results from a symbiotic partnership between plant and microbes. These together elaborate nodules on the plant roots that house the bacteria. Tsikou et al. identified a microRNA made in the aboveground shoots of Lotus japonicus that translocates to the plant's roots. In the roots, the microRNA posttranscriptionally regulates a key suppressor of symbiosis, thus keeping the uninfected root susceptible to productive infection by symbiotic bacteria.

Science, this issue p. 233


Nitrogen-fixing root nodules on legumes result from two developmental processes, bacterial infection and nodule organogenesis. To balance symbiosis and plant growth, legume hosts restrict nodule numbers through an inducible autoregulatory process. Here, we present a mechanism where repression of a negative regulator ensures symbiotic susceptibility of uninfected roots of the host Lotus japonicus. We show that microRNA miR2111 undergoes shoot-to-root translocation to control rhizobial infection through posttranscriptional regulation of the symbiosis suppressor TOO MUCH LOVE in roots. miR2111 maintains a susceptible default status in uninfected hosts and functions as an activator of symbiosis downstream of LOTUS HISTIDINE KINASE1–mediated cytokinin perception in roots and HYPERNODULATION ABERRANT ROOT FORMATION1, a shoot factor in autoregulation. The miR2111-TML node ensures activation of feedback regulation to balance infection and nodulation events.

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