Journal: Nature Communications
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Rooting out plant responses
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Legumes respond to nitrogen in their soil environment by putting the brakes on a symbiotic partnership with soil bacteria that helps produce more of the element.
A University of Tsukuba-led study revealed a key genetic pathway behind this response — a finding that could help enhance crop yield and reduce fertilizer use for those who want to breed soybeans and other commercially important legumes.
Tsukuba researchers raised the legume Lotus japonicas, a popular model plant for genome studies, in cabinets with a bacterium that invades the plant roots and forms bulb-like nodules. This bacterium then converts nitrogen from the air into a form usable by plants in exchange for energy from its legume host.
By exposing the plants to a chemical that modifies their DNA, the researchers pinpointed a mutant gene, NRSYM1, in which the nitrogen-fixing mechanism is defective. This gene, the authors showed, induces the production of a peptide that quells the formation of new root nodules when nitrogen is already abundant in the soil.
- Nature Communications 9, 499 (2018) doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-02831-x