PerspectivePlant Biology

Bacteria send messages to colonize plant roots

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Science  30 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6456, pp. 868-869
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay7101

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Summary

Studied for more than 130 years (1), the intimate and unusual relationship established between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobia) allows plants to use atmospheric nitrogen in exchange for their photosynthetic-derived carbohydrates. The production of root nodules in which the symbiotic interaction takes place requires complex developmental regulation by the plant. Nodules are relatively distinct organs among plant species, essentially representing a controlled microbial invasion of the root. Somewhat like the human gut, the plant provides an environment in which specific microbes can thrive—but unlike the gut, nodule microbial composition is limited to a small number of species. The genetic control of nodulation development is complex, with recent work showing a dependency on small RNAs (sRNAs) trafficked from shoot to root (2). On page 919 of this issue, Ren et al. (3) identify bacteria-derived transfer RNA (tRNA)–derived fragments (tRFs) as modulators of the process of nodulation.

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