Professor of BacteriologyAddress: 1550 Linden Drive, Room 5303
Phone: (608) 262-6457
Potassium (K(+)) is an essential macronutrient for plants and the most abundant cation in cells. Due to variable K(+) availability in the environment, plants must be able to adjust their developmental, physiological and transcriptional responses. The plant development to K(+) deprivation was not well studied in legumes thus far. We recently described the first adaptation mechanisms of the model legume Medicago truncatula Jemalong A17 to long-term K(+) deprivation and analyzed these responses in the context of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. Here we report polymorphic growth variations of two genetically very different accessions of M. truncatula to K(+)-limiting conditions, Jemalong A17, and the Tunisian accession Tn11.1. The faster adaptation of Tn11.1 than A17 to K(+) shortage might be due to its greater adaptation to saline soils. Examining in a more systematic way the developmental adaptation of various M. truncatula accessions to K(+) deprivation will provide a better understanding of how legume evolved to cope with this stressful condition.
The plant membrane localized NADPH oxidases, also known as respiratory burst oxidase homologs (RBOHs), play crucial roles in various cellular activities including plant disease responses, and are a major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a cosmopolitan fungal pathogen that causes Sclerotinia stem rot (SSR) in soybean. Via a key virulence factor, oxalic acid, it induces programmed cell death (PCD) in the host plant, a process that is reliant on ROS generation. In this study, using protein sequence similarity searches, we have identified seventeen soybean RBOHs (GmRBOHs) and studied their contribution to SSR disease development, drought tolerance and nodulation. We clustered the soybean RBOH genes into six groups of orthologs based on phylogenetic analysis with their Arabidopsis counterparts. Transcript analysis of all seventeen GmRBOHs revealed that out of the six identified groups, group VI (GmRBOH-VI) was specifically and drastically induced following S. sclerotiorum challenge. Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) of GmRBOH-VI using Bean pod mottle virus (BPMV) resulted in enhanced resistance to S. sclerotiorum and markedly reduced ROS levels during disease development. Coincidently, GmRBOH-VI-silenced plants were also found to be drought tolerant, but had a reduce capacity to form nodules. Our results indicate that the pathogenic development of S. sclerotiorum in soybean requires the active participation of specific host RBOHs, to induce ROS and cell death, thus leading to the establishment of disease. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) associations enhance the phosphorous and nitrogen nutrition of host plants, but little is known about their role in potassium (K(+)) nutrition. Medicago truncatula plants were cocultured with the AM fungus Rhizophagus irregularis under high and low K(+) regimes for 6 weeks. We determined how K(+) deprivation affects plant development and mineral acquisition and how these negative effects are tempered by the AM colonization. The transcriptional response of AM roots under K(+) deficiency was analyzed by whole-genome RNA sequencing. K(+) deprivation decreased root biomass and external K(+) uptake and modulated oxidative stress gene expression in M. truncatula roots. AM colonization induced specific transcriptional responses to K(+) deprivation that seem to temper these negative effects. A gene network analysis revealed putative key regulators of these responses. This study confirmed that AM associations provide some tolerance to K(+) deprivation to host plants, revealed that AM symbiosis modulates the expression of specific root genes to cope with this nutrient stress, and identified putative regulators participating in these tolerance mechanisms.
Detecting the phosphorylation substrates of multiple kinases in a single experiment is a challenge, and new techniques are being developed to overcome this challenge. Here, we used a multiplexed assay for kinase specificity (MAKS) to identify the substrates directly and to map the phosphorylation site(s) of plant symbiotic receptor-like kinases. The symbiotic receptor-like kinases nodulation receptor-like kinase (NORK) and lysin motif domain-containing receptor-like kinase 3 (LYK3) are indispensable for the establishment of root nodule symbiosis. Although some interacting proteins have been identified for these symbiotic receptor-like kinases, very little is known about their phosphorylation substrates. Using this high-throughput approach, we identified several other potential phosphorylation targets for both these symbiotic receptor-like kinases. In particular, we also discovered the phosphorylation of LYK3 by NORK itself, which was also confirmed by pairwise kinase assays. Motif analysis of potential targets for these kinases revealed that the acidic motif xxxsDxxx was common to both of them. In summary, this high-throughput technique catalogs the potential phosphorylation substrates of multiple kinases in a single efficient experiment, the biological characterization of which should provide a better understanding of phosphorylation signaling cascade in symbiosis.
531 I. 531 II. 532 III. 532 IV. 534 V. 534 535 References 535 SUMMARY: Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi associate with the vast majority of land plants, providing mutual nutritional benefits and protecting hosts against biotic and abiotic stresses. Significant progress was made recently in our understanding of the genomic organization, the obligate requirements, and the sexual nature of these fungi through the release and subsequent mining of genome sequences. Genomic and genetic approaches also improved our understanding of the signal repertoire used by AM fungi and their plant hosts to recognize each other for the initiation and maintenance of this association. Evolutionary and bioinformatic analyses of host and nonhost plant genomes represent novel ways with which to decipher host mechanisms controlling these associations and shed light on the stepwise acquisition of this genetic toolkit during plant evolution. Mining fungal and plant genomes along with evolutionary and genetic approaches will improve understanding of these symbiotic associations and, in the long term, their usefulness in agricultural settings.
Plant science is an important, rapidly developing area of study. Within plant science, one area of study that has grown tremendously with recent technological advances, such as mass spectrometry, is the field of plant-omics; however, plant peptidomics is relatively underdeveloped in comparison with proteomics and metabolomics. Endogenous plant peptides can act as signaling molecules and have been shown to affect cell division, development, nodulation, reproduction, symbiotic associations, and defense reactions. There is a growing need to uncover the role of endogenous peptides on a molecular level. Mass spectrometric imaging (MSI) is a valuable tool for biological analyses as it allows for the detection of thousands of analytes in a single experiment and also displays spatial information for the detected analytes. Despite the prediction of a large number of plant peptides, their detection and imaging with spatial localization and chemical specificity is currently lacking. Here we analyzed the endogenous peptides and proteins in Medicago truncatula using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI)-MSI. Hundreds of endogenous peptides and protein fragments were imaged, with interesting peptide spatial distribution changes observed between plants in different developmental stages.
Legumes are essential components of agricultural systems because they enrich the soil in nitrogen and require little environmentally deleterious fertilizers. A complex symbiotic association between legumes and nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria called rhizobia culminates in the development of root nodules, where rhizobia fix atmospheric nitrogen and transfer it to their plant host. Here we describe a quantitative proteomic atlas of the model legume Medicago truncatula and its rhizobial symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti, which includes more than 23,000 proteins, 20,000 phosphorylation sites, and 700 lysine acetylation sites. Our analysis provides insight into mechanisms regulating symbiosis. We identify a calmodulin-binding protein as a key regulator in the host and assign putative roles and targets to host factors (bioactive peptides) that control gene expression in the symbiont. Further mining of this proteomic resource may enable engineering of crops and their microbial partners to increase agricultural productivity and sustainability.
Density-dependent phenotypic switching in bacteria, the phenomenon of quorum sensing (QS), is instrumental in many pathogenic and mutualistic behaviors. In many Gram-negative bacteria, QS is regulated by N-acylated-l-homoserine lactones (AHLs). Synthetic analogues of these AHLs hold significant promise for regulating QS at the host-symbiont interface. Regulation depends on refined temporal and spatial models of quorums under native conditions. Critical to this is an understanding of how the presence of these signals may affect a prospective host. We screened a library of AHL analogues for their ability to regulate the legume-rhizobia mutualistic symbiosis (nodulation) between Medicago truncatula and Sinorhizobium meliloti. Using an established QS-reporter line of S. meliloti and nodulation assays with wild-type bacteria, we identified compounds capable of increasing either the rate of nodule formation or total nodule number. Most importantly, we identified compounds with activity exclusive to either host or pathogen, underscoring the potential to generate QS modulators selective to bacteria with limited effects on a prospective host.
Soil-dwelling, nitrogen-fixing rhizobia signal their presence to legume hosts by secreting lipo-chitooligomers (LCOs) that are decorated with a variety of chemical substituents. It has long been assumed, but never empirically shown, that the LCO backbone is synthesized first by NodC, NodB, and NodA, followed by addition of one or more substituents by other Nod proteins. By analyzing a collection of in-frame deletion mutants of key nod genes in the bacterium Rhizobium sp. IRBG74 by mass spectrometry, we were able to shed light on the possible substitution order of LCO decorations, and we discovered that the prevailing view is probably erroneous. We found that most substituents could be transferred to a short chitin backbone prior to acylation by NodA, which is probably one of the last steps in LCO biosynthesis. The existence of substituted, short chitin oligomers offers new insights into symbiotic plant-microbe signaling.
Rhizobium sp. IRBG74 develops a classical nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with the aquatic legume Sesbania cannabina (Retz.). It also promotes the growth of wetland rice (Oryza sativa L.), but little is known about the rhizobial determinants important for these interactions. In this study, we analyzed the colonization of S. cannabina and rice using a strain of Rhizobium sp. IRBG74 dually marked with β-glucuronidase and the green fluorescent protein. This bacterium colonized S. cannabina by crack entry and through root hair infection under flooded and non-flooded conditions, respectively. Rhizobium sp. IRBG74 colonized the surfaces of wetland rice roots, but also entered them at the base of lateral roots. It became endophytically established within intercellular spaces in the rice cortex, and intracellularly within epidermal and hypodermal cells. A mutant of Rhizobium sp. IRBG74 altered in the synthesis of the rhamnose-containing O-antigen exhibited significant defects, not only in nodulation and symbiotic nitrogen fixation with S. cannabina, but also in rice colonization and plant growth promotion. Supplementation with purified lipopolysaccharides from the wild-type strain, but not from the mutant, restored the beneficial colonization of rice roots, but not fully effective nodulation of S. cannabina Commonalities and differences in the rhizobial colonization of the roots of wetland legume and rice hosts are discussed.
Access to fixed or available forms of nitrogen limits the productivity of crop plants and thus food production. Nitrogenous fertilizer production currently represents a significant expense for the efficient growth of various crops in the developed world. There are significant potential gains to be had from reducing dependence on nitrogenous fertilizers in agriculture in the developed world and in developing countries, and there is significant interest in research on biological nitrogen fixation and prospects for increasing its importance in an agricultural setting. Biological nitrogen fixation is the conversion of atmospheric N2 to NH3, a form that can be used by plants. However, the process is restricted to bacteria and archaea and does not occur in eukaryotes. Symbiotic nitrogen fixation is part of a mutualistic relationship in which plants provide a niche and fixed carbon to bacteria in exchange for fixed nitrogen. This process is restricted mainly to legumes in agricultural systems, and there is considerable interest in exploring whether similar symbioses can be developed in nonlegumes, which produce the bulk of human food. We are at a juncture at which the fundamental understanding of biological nitrogen fixation has matured to a level that we can think about engineering symbiotic relationships using synthetic biology approaches. This minireview highlights the fundamental advances in our understanding of biological nitrogen fixation in the context of a blueprint for expanding symbiotic nitrogen fixation to a greater diversity of crop plants through synthetic biology.
Unlike the major cereal crops corn, rice, and wheat, leguminous plants such as soybean and alfalfa can meet their nitrogen requirement via endosymbiotic associations with soil bacteria. The establishment of this symbiosis is a complex process playing out over several weeks and is facilitated by the exchange of chemical signals between these partners from different kingdoms. Several plant components that are involved in this signaling pathway have been identified, but there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the early events in symbiotic signaling, i.e., within the first minutes and hours after the rhizobial signals (Nod factors) are perceived at the plant plasma membrane. The presence of several protein kinases in this pathway suggests a mechanism of signal transduction via posttranslational modification of proteins in which phosphate is added to the hydroxyl groups of serine, threonine and tyrosine amino acid side chains. To monitor the phosphorylation dynamics and complement our previous untargeted 'discovery' approach, we report here the results of experiments using a targeted mass spectrometric technique, Selected Reaction Monitoring (SRM) that enables the quantification of phosphorylation targets with great sensitivity and precision. Using this approach, we confirm a rapid change in the level of phosphorylation in 4 phosphosites of at least 4 plant phosphoproteins that have not been previously characterized. This detailed analysis reveals aspects of the symbiotic signaling mechanism in legumes that, in the long term, will inform efforts to engineer this nitrogen-fixing symbiosis in important non-legume crops such as rice, wheat and corn.
Inventors in the field of mechanical and electronic engineering can access multitudes of components and, thanks to standardization, parts from different manufacturers can be used in combination with each other. The introduction of BioBrick standards for the assembly of characterized DNA sequences was a landmark in microbial engineering, shaping the field of synthetic biology. Here, we describe a standard for Type IIS restriction endonuclease-mediated assembly, defining a common syntax of 12 fusion sites to enable the facile assembly of eukaryotic transcriptional units. This standard has been developed and agreed by representatives and leaders of the international plant science and synthetic biology communities, including inventors, developers and adopters of Type IIS cloning methods. Our vision is of an extensive catalogue of standardized, characterized DNA parts that will accelerate plant bioengineering.
Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) symbioses are among the most widespread associations between roots of woody plants and soil fungi in forest ecosystems. These associations contribute significantly to the sustainability and sustainagility of these ecosystems through nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. Unfortunately, the molecular mechanisms controlling the mutual recognition between both partners are still poorly understood. Elegant work has demonstrated that effector proteins from ECM and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi regulate host defenses by manipulating plant hormonal pathways. In parallel, genetic and evolutionary studies in legumes showed that a 'common symbiosis pathway' is required for the establishment of the ancient AM symbiosis and has been recruited for the rhizobia-legume association. Given that genes of this pathway are present in many angiosperm trees that develop ectomycorrhizas, we propose their potential involvement in some but not all ECM associations. The maintenance of a successful long-term relationship seems strongly regulated by resource allocation between symbiotic partners, suggesting that nutrients themselves may serve as signals. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the early and late signal exchanges between woody plants and ECM fungi, and we suggest future directions for decoding the molecular basis of the underground dance between trees and their favorite fungal partners.
Colonization of land by plants was a major transition on Earth, but the developmental and genetic innovations required for this transition remain unknown. Physiological studies and the fossil record strongly suggest that the ability of the first land plants to form symbiotic associations with beneficial fungi was one of these critical innovations. In angiosperms, genes required for the perception and transduction of diffusible fungal signals for root colonization and for nutrient exchange have been characterized. However, the origin of these genes and their potential correlation with land colonization remain elusive. A comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of 259 transcriptomes and 10 green algal and basal land plant genomes, coupled with the characterization of the evolutionary path leading to the appearance of a key regulator, a calcium- and calmodulin-dependent protein kinase, showed that the symbiotic signaling pathway predated the first land plants. In contrast, downstream genes required for root colonization and their specific expression pattern probably appeared subsequent to the colonization of land. We conclude that the most recent common ancestor of extant land plants and green algae was preadapted for symbiotic associations. Subsequent improvement of this precursor stage in early land plants through rounds of gene duplication led to the acquisition of additional pathways and the ability to form a fully functional arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis.
Rhizobia and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi produce signals that are perceived by host legume receptors at the plasma membrane and trigger sustained oscillations of the nuclear and perinuclear Ca(2+) concentration (Ca(2+) spiking), which in turn leads to gene expression and downstream symbiotic responses. The activation of Ca(2+) spiking requires the plasma membrane-localized receptor-like kinase Does not Make Infections 2 (DMI2) as well as the nuclear cation channel DMI1. A key enzyme regulating the mevalonate (MVA) pathway, 3-Hydroxy-3-Methylglutaryl CoA Reductase 1 (HMGR1), interacts with DMI2 and is required for the legume-rhizobium symbiosis. Here, we show that HMGR1 is required to initiate Ca(2+) spiking and symbiotic gene expression in Medicago truncatula roots in response to rhizobial and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal signals. Furthermore, MVA, the direct product of HMGR1 activity, is sufficient to induce nuclear-associated Ca(2+) spiking and symbiotic gene expression in both wild-type plants and dmi2 mutants, but interestingly not in dmi1 mutants. Finally, MVA induced Ca(2+) spiking in Human Embryonic Kidney 293 cells expressing DMI1. This demonstrates that the nuclear cation channel DMI1 is sufficient to support MVA-induced Ca(2+) spiking in this heterologous system.
In plants and fungi the plasma membrane proton pump generates a large proton-motive force that performs essential functions in many processes, including solute transport and the control of cell elongation. Previous studies in yeast and higher plants have indicated that phosphorylation of an auto-inhibitory domain is involved in regulating pump activity. In this report we examine the Medicago truncatula plasma membrane proton pump gene family, and in particular MtAHA5. Yeast complementation assays with phosphomimetic mutations at six candidate sites support a phosphoregulatory role for two residues, suggesting a molecular model to explain early Nod factor-induced changes in the plasma membrane proton-motive force of legume root cells.
Establishment of arbuscular mycorrhizal interactions involves plant recognition of diffusible signals from the fungus, including lipochitooligosaccharides (LCOs) and chitooligosaccharides (COs). Nitrogen-fixing rhizobial bacteria that associate with leguminous plants also signal to their hosts via LCOs, the so-called Nod factors. Here, we have assessed the induction of symbiotic signaling by the arbuscular mycorrhizal (Myc) fungal-produced LCOs and COs in legumes and rice (Oryza sativa). We show that Myc-LCOs and tetra-acetyl chitotetraose (CO4) activate the common symbiosis signaling pathway, with resultant calcium oscillations in root epidermal cells of Medicago truncatula and Lotus japonicus. The nature of the calcium oscillations is similar for LCOs produced by rhizobial bacteria and by mycorrhizal fungi; however, Myc-LCOs activate distinct gene expression. Calcium oscillations were activated in rice atrichoblasts by CO4, but not the Myc-LCOs, whereas a mix of CO4 and Myc-LCOs activated calcium oscillations in rice trichoblasts. In contrast, stimulation of lateral root emergence occurred following treatment with Myc-LCOs, but not CO4, in M. truncatula, whereas both Myc-LCOs and CO4 were active in rice. Our work indicates that legumes and non-legumes differ in their perception of Myc-LCO and CO signals, suggesting that different plant species respond to different components in the mix of signals produced by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.
Legumes have developed the unique ability to establish a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria known as rhizobia. This interaction results in the formation of root nodules in which rhizobia thrive and reduce atmospheric dinitrogen into plant-usable ammonium through biological nitrogen fixation (BNF). Owing to the availability of genetic information for both of the symbiotic partners, the Medicago truncatula-Sinorhizobium meliloti association is an excellent model for examining the BNF process. Although metabolites are important in this symbiotic association, few studies have investigated the array of metabolites that influence this process. Of these studies, most target only a few specific metabolites, the roles of which are either well known or are part of a well-characterized metabolic pathway. Here, we used a multifaceted mass spectrometric (MS) approach to detect and identify the key metabolites that are present during BNF using the Medicago truncatula-Sinorhizobium meliloti association as the model system. High mass accuracy and high resolution matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) and electrospray ionization (ESI) Orbitrap instruments were used in this study and provide complementary results for more in-depth characterization of the nitrogen-fixation process. We used well-characterized plant and bacterial mutants to highlight differences between the metabolites that are present in functional versus nonfunctional nodules. Our study highlights the benefits of using a combination of mass spectrometric techniques to detect differences in metabolite composition and the distributions of these metabolites in plant biology.
Many bacteria use quorum sensing (QS) to regulate phenotypes that ultimately benefit the bacterial population at high cell densities. These QS-dependent phenotypes are diverse and can have significant impacts on the bacterial host, including virulence factor production, motility, biofilm formation, bioluminescence, and root nodulation. As bacteria and their eukaryotic hosts have coevolved over millions of years, it is not surprising that certain hosts appear to be able to sense QS signals, potentially allowing them to alter QS outcomes. Recent experiments have established that eukaryotes have marked responses to the N-acyl L-homoserine lactone (AHL) signals used by Gram-negative bacteria for QS, and the responses of plants to AHLs have received considerable scrutiny to date. However, the molecular mechanisms by which plants, and eukaryotes in general, sense bacterial AHLs remain unclear. Herein, we report a systematic analysis of the responses of the model plants Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula to a series of native AHLs and byproducts thereof. Our results establish that AHLs can significantly alter seedling growth in an acyl-chain length dependent manner. Based upon A. thaliana knockout studies and in vitro biochemical assays, we conclude that the observed growth effects are dependent upon AHL amidolysis by a plant-derived fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) to yield L-homoserine. The accumulation of l-homoserine appears to encourage plant growth at low concentrations by stimulating transpiration, while higher concentrations inhibit growth by stimulating ethylene production. These results offer new insights into the mechanisms by which plant hosts can respond to QS signals and the potential role of QS in interkingdom associations.
Mechanical stimulations play a significant role in the day to day existence of plants. Plants exhibit varied responses depending on the nature and intensity of these stimuli. In this review, we present recent literature on the responses of plants to mechanical stimuli, focusing primarily on those exerted during plant-microbe interactions. We discuss how microbes are able to apply mechanical stimuli on plants and how some plant responses to pathogenic and symbiotic microbes present striking similarities with responses to mechanical stimuli applied, for instance, using micro-needles. We hypothesize that appropriate responses of plants to pathogenic and symbiotic microbes may require a tight integration of both chemical and mechanical stimulations exerted by these microbes.
Mutualistic symbioses between eukaryotes and beneficial microorganisms of their microbiome play an essential role in nutrition, protection against disease, and development of the host. However, the impact of beneficial symbionts on the evolution of host genomes remains poorly characterized. Here we used the independent loss of the most widespread plant-microbe symbiosis, arbuscular mycorrhization (AM), as a model to address this question. Using a large phenotypic approach and phylogenetic analyses, we present evidence that loss of AM symbiosis correlates with the loss of many symbiotic genes in the Arabidopsis lineage (Brassicales). Then, by analyzing the genome and/or transcriptomes of nine other phylogenetically divergent non-host plants, we show that this correlation occurred in a convergent manner in four additional plant lineages, demonstrating the existence of an evolutionary pattern specific to symbiotic genes. Finally, we use a global comparative phylogenomic approach to track this evolutionary pattern among land plants. Based on this approach, we identify a set of 174 highly conserved genes and demonstrate enrichment in symbiosis-related genes. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that beneficial symbionts maintain purifying selection on host gene networks during the evolution of entire lineages.
Disease outbreaks due to the consumption of legume seedlings contaminated with human enteric bacterial pathogens like Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica are reported every year. Besides contaminations occurring during food processing, pathogens present on the surface or interior of plant tissues are also responsible for such outbreaks. In the present study, surface and internal colonization of Medicago truncatula, a close relative of alfalfa, by Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli O157:H7 were observed even with inoculum levels as low as two bacteria per plant. Furthermore, expression analyses revealed that approximately 30% of Medicago truncatula genes were commonly regulated in response to both of these enteric pathogens. This study highlights that very low inoculum doses trigger responses from the host plant and that both of these human enteric pathogens may in part use similar mechanisms to colonize legume seedlings.
Rhizobium sp. strain IRBG74 is the first known nitrogen-fixing symbiont in the Agrobacterium/Rhizobium clade that nodulates the aquatic legume Sesbania sp. and is also a growth-promoting endophyte of wetland rice. Here, we present the sequence of the IRBG74 genome, which is composed of a circular chromosome, a linear chromosome, and a symbiotic plasmid, pIRBG74a.
Symbiotic associations between leguminous plants and nitrogen-fixing rhizobia culminate in the formation of specialized organs called root nodules, in which the rhizobia fix atmospheric nitrogen and transfer it to the plant. Efficient biological nitrogen fixation depends on metabolites produced by and exchanged between both partners. The Medicago truncatula-Sinorhizobium meliloti association is an excellent model for dissecting this nitrogen-fixing symbiosis because of the availability of genetic information for both symbiotic partners. Here, we employed a powerful imaging technique - matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI)/mass spectrometric imaging (MSI) - to study metabolite distribution in roots and root nodules of M. truncatula during nitrogen fixation. The combination of an efficient, novel MALDI matrix [1,8-bis(dimethyl-amino) naphthalene, DMAN] with a conventional matrix 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB) allowed detection of a large array of organic acids, amino acids, sugars, lipids, flavonoids and their conjugates with improved coverage. Ion density maps of representative metabolites are presented and correlated with the nitrogen fixation process. We demonstrate differences in metabolite distribution between roots and nodules, and also between fixing and non-fixing nodules produced by plant and bacterial mutants. Our study highlights the benefits of using MSI for detecting differences in metabolite distributions in plant biology.
Beneficial associations between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi play a major role in terrestrial environments and in the sustainability of agroecosystems. Proteins, microRNAs, and small molecules have been identified in model angiosperms as required for the establishment of arbuscular mycorrhizal associations and define a symbiotic 'toolkit' used for other interactions such as the rhizobia-legume symbiosis. Based on recent studies, we propose an evolutionary framework for this toolkit. Some components appeared recently in angiosperms, whereas others are highly conserved even in land plants unable to form arbuscular mycorrhizal associations. The exciting finding that some components pre-date the appearance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi suggests the existence of unknown roles for this toolkit and even the possibility of symbiotic associations in charophyte green algae.
In the Internet era, communicating with friends and colleagues via social networks constitutes a significant proportion of our daily activities. Similarly animals and plants also interact with many organisms, some of which are pathogens and do no good for the plant, while others are beneficial symbionts. Almost all plants indulge in developing social networks with microbes, in particular with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and emerging evidence indicates that most employ an ancient and widespread central 'social media' pathway made of signaling molecules within what is called the SYM pathway. Some plants, like legumes, are particularly active recruiters of friends, as they have established very sophisticated and beneficial interactions with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, also via the SYM pathway. Interestingly, many members of the Brassicaceae, including the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, seem to have removed themselves from this ancestral social network and lost the ability to engage in mutually favorable interactions with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Despite these generalizations, recent studies exploring the root microbiota of A. thaliana have found that in natural conditions, A. thaliana roots are colonized by many different bacterial species and therefore may be using different and probably more recent 'social media' for these interactions. In general, recent advances in the understanding of such molecular machinery required for plant-symbiont associations are being obtained using high throughput genomic profiling strategies including transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. The crucial mechanistic understanding that such data reveal may provide the infrastructure for future efforts to genetically manipulate crop social networks for our own food and fiber needs.
Peptide sequencing by computational assignment of tandem mass spectra to a database of putative protein sequences provides an independent approach to confirming or refuting protein predictions based on large-scale DNA and RNA sequencing efforts. This use of mass spectrometrically-derived sequence data for testing and refining predicted gene models has been termed proteogenomics. We report herein the application of proteogenomic methodology to a database of 10.9 million tandem mass spectra collected over a period of two years from proteolytically generated peptides isolated from the model legume Medicago truncatula. These spectra were searched against a database of predicted M. truncatula protein sequences generated from public databases, in silico gene model predictions, and a whole-genome six-frame translation. This search identified 78,647 distinct peptide sequences, and a comparison with the publicly available proteome from the recently published M. truncatula genome supported translation of 9,843 existing gene models and identified 1,568 novel peptides suggesting corrections or additions to the current annotations. Each supporting and novel peptide was independently validated using mRNA-derived deep sequencing coverage and an overall correlation of 93% between the two data types was observed. We have additionally highlighted examples of several aspects of structural annotation for which tandem MS provides unique evidence not easily obtainable through typical DNA or RNA sequencing. Proteogenomic analysis is a valuable and unique source of information for the structural annotation of genomes and should be included in such efforts to ensure that the genome models used by biologists mirror as accurately as possible what is present in the cell.
The establishment of symbiosis between leguminous plants and rhizobial bacteria requires rapid metabolic changes in both partners. We utilized untargeted quantitative mass spectrometry to perform metabolomic profiling of small molecules in extracts of the model legume Medicago truncatula treated with rhizobial Nod factors. One metabolite closely resembling the 9(R)-HODE class of oxylipins reproducibly showed a decrease in concentration within the first hour of in planta nod factor treatment. Oxylipins are precursors of the jasmonic acid biosynthetic pathway and we showed that both this metabolite and jasmonic acid inhibit Nod factor signaling. Since, oxylipins have been implicated as antimicrobial compounds produced by plants, these observations suggest that the oxylipin pathway may play multiple roles in facilitating Nod factor signaling during the early stages of symbiosis.
Symbiotic associations between legumes and rhizobia usually commence with the perception of bacterial lipochitooligosaccharides, known as Nod factors (NF), which triggers rapid cellular and molecular responses in host plants. We report here deep untargeted tandem mass spectrometry-based measurements of rapid NF-induced changes in the phosphorylation status of 13,506 phosphosites in 7739 proteins from the model legume Medicago truncatula. To place these phosphorylation changes within a biological context, quantitative phosphoproteomic and RNA measurements in wild-type plants were compared with those observed in mutants, one defective in NF perception (nfp) and one defective in downstream signal transduction events (dmi3). Our study quantified the early phosphorylation and transcription dynamics that are specifically associated with NF-signaling, confirmed a dmi3-mediated feedback loop in the pathway, and suggested "cryptic" NF-signaling pathways, some of them being also involved in the response to symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.
Arbuscular mycorrhiza and the rhizobia-legume symbiosis are two major root endosymbioses that facilitate plant nutrition. In Lotus japonicus, two symbiotic cation channels, CASTOR and POLLUX, are indispensable for the induction of nuclear calcium spiking, one of the earliest plant responses to symbiotic partner recognition. During recent evolution, a single amino acid substitution in DOES NOT MAKE INFECTIONS1 (DMI1), the POLLUX putative ortholog in the closely related Medicago truncatula, rendered the channel solo sufficient for symbiosis; castor, pollux, and castor pollux double mutants of L. japonicus were rescued by DMI1 alone, while both Lj-CASTOR and Lj-POLLUX were required for rescuing a dmi1 mutant of M. truncatula. Experimental replacement of the critical serine by an alanine in the selectivity filter of Lj-POLLUX conferred a symbiotic performance indistinguishable from DMI1. Electrophysiological characterization of DMI1 and Lj-CASTOR (wild-type and mutants) by planar lipid bilayer experiments combined with calcium imaging in Human Embryonic Kidney-293 cells expressing DMI1 (the wild type and mutants) suggest that the serine-to-alanine substitution conferred reduced conductance with a long open state to DMI1 and improved its efficiency in mediating calcium oscillations. We propose that this single amino acid replacement in the selectivity filter made DMI1 solo sufficient for symbiosis, thus explaining the selective advantage of this allele at the mechanistic level.
The ability of legume crops to fix atmospheric nitrogen via a symbiotic association with soil rhizobia makes them an essential component of many agricultural systems. Initiation of this symbiosis requires protein phosphorylation-mediated signaling in response to rhizobial signals named Nod factors. Medicago truncatula (Medicago) is the model system for studying legume biology, making the study of its phosphoproteome essential. Here, we describe the Medicago PhosphoProtein Database (MPPD; http://phospho.medicago.wisc.edu), a repository built to house phosphoprotein, phosphopeptide, and phosphosite data specific to Medicago. Currently, the MPPD holds 3,457 unique phosphopeptides that contain 3,404 non-redundant sites of phosphorylation on 829 proteins. Through the web-based interface, users are allowed to browse identified proteins or search for proteins of interest. Furthermore, we allow users to conduct BLAST searches of the database using both peptide sequences and phosphorylation motifs as queries. The data contained within the database are available for download to be investigated at the user's discretion. The MPPD will be updated continually with novel phosphoprotein and phosphopeptide identifications, with the intent of constructing an unparalleled compendium of large-scale Medicago phosphorylation data.
Understanding the interactions of plants with beneficial and pathogenic microbes is a promising avenue to improve crop productivity and agriculture sustainability. Proteomic techniques provide a unique angle to describe these intricate interactions and test hypotheses. The various approaches for proteomic analysis generally include protein/peptide separation and identification, but can also provide quantification and the characterization of post-translational modifications. In this review, we discuss how these techniques have been applied to the study of plant-microbe interactions. We also present some areas where this field of study would benefit from the utilization of newly developed methods that overcome previous limitations. Finally, we reinforce the need for expanding, integrating, and curating protein databases, as well as the benefits of combining protein-level datasets with those from genetic analyses and other high-throughput large-scale approaches for a systems-level view of plant-microbe interactions.
Legumes form endosymbiotic associations with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi which facilitate nutrient uptake. Both symbiotic interactions require a molecular signal exchange between the plant and the symbiont, and this involves a conserved symbiosis (Sym) signaling pathway. In order to identify plant genes required for intracellular accommodation of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and AM fungi, we characterized Medicago truncatula symbiotic mutants defective for rhizobial infection of nodule cells and colonization of root cells by AM hyphae. Here, we describe mutants impaired in the interacting protein of DMI3 (IPD3) gene, which has been identified earlier as an interacting partner of the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein, a member of the Sym pathway. The ipd3 mutants are impaired in both rhizobial and mycorrhizal colonization and we show that IPD3 is necessary for appropriate Nod-factor-induced gene expression. This indicates that IPD3 is a member of the common Sym pathway. We observed differences in the severity of ipd3 mutants that appear to be the result of the genetic background. This supports the hypothesis that IPD3 function is partially redundant and, thus, additional genetic components must exist that have analogous functions to IPD3. This explains why mutations in an essential component of the Sym pathway have defects at late stages of the symbiotic interactions.
Nuclear-associated oscillations in calcium act as a secondary messenger in the symbiotic signaling pathway of legumes. These are decoded by a nuclear-localized calcium and calmodulin-dependent protein kinase, the activation of which is sufficient to drive downstream responses. This implies that the calcium oscillations within the nucleus are the predominant signals for legume symbiosis. However, the mechanisms that allow targeted release of calcium in the nuclear region have not been defined. Here we show that symbiosis-induced calcium changes occur in both the nucleoplasm and the perinuclear cytoplasm and seem to originate from the nuclear membranes. Reaction diffusion simulations suggest that spike generation within the nucleoplasm is not possible through transmission of a calcium wave from the cytoplasm alone and that calcium is likely to be released across the inner nuclear membrane to allow nuclear calcium changes. In agreement with this, we found that the cation channel DMI1, which is essential for symbiotic calcium oscillations, is preferentially located on the inner nuclear membrane, implying an essential function for the inner nuclear membrane in symbiotic calcium signaling. Furthermore, a sarco/endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) essential for symbiotic calcium oscillations is targeted to the inner nuclear membrane, as well as the outer nuclear membrane and endoplasmic reticulum (ER). We propose that release of calcium across the inner nuclear membrane allows targeted release of the ER calcium store, and efficient reloading of this calcium store necessitates the capture of calcium from the nucleoplasm and nuclear-associated cytoplasm.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi stimulate root development and induce expression of mycorrhization-specific genes in both eudicots and monocots. Diffusible factors released by AM fungi have been shown to elicit similar responses in Medicago truncatula. Colonization of roots by AM fungi is inhibited by ethylene. We compared the effects of germinating spore exudates (GSE) from Glomus intraradices in monocots and in eudicots, their genetic control, and their regulation by ethylene. GSE modify root architecture and induce symbiotic gene expression in both monocots and eudicots. The genetic regulation of root architecture and gene expression was analyzed using M. truncatula and rice symbiotic mutants. These responses are dependent on the common symbiotic pathway as well as another uncharacterized pathway. Significant differences between monocots and eudicots were observed in the genetic control of plant responses to GSE. However, ethylene inhibits GSE-induced symbiotic gene expression and root development in both groups. Our results indicate that GSE signaling shares similarities and differences in monocots versus eudicots, that only a subset of AM signaling pathways has been co-opted in legumes for the establishment of root nodulation with rhizobia, and that regulation of these pathways by ethylene is a feature conserved across higher land plants.
Root hairs play important roles in the interaction of plants with their environment. Root hairs anchor the plant in the soil, facilitate nutrient uptake from the rhizosphere, and participate in symbiotic plant-microbe interactions. These specialized cells grow in a polar fashion which gives rise to their elongated shape, a process mediated in part by a family of small GTPases known as Rops. RopGEFs (GEF, guanine nucleotide exchange factor) activate Rops to effect tip growth in Arabidopsis pollen and root hairs, but the genes mediating tip growth in legumes have not yet been characterized. In this report we describe the Rop and RopGEF gene families from the model legume Medicago truncatula and from the crop legume soybean. We find that one member of the M. truncatula gene family, MtRopGEF2, is required for root hair development because silencing this gene by RNA interference affects the cytosolic Ca2+ gradient and subcellular structure of root hairs, and reduces root hair growth. Consistent with its role in polar growth, we find that a GFP::MtRopGEF2 fusion protein localizes in the apex of emerging and actively growing root hairs. The amino terminus of MtRopGEF2 regulates its ability to interact with MtRops in yeast, and regulates its biological activity in vivo.
*The colonization of land by plants fundamentally altered environmental conditions on earth. Plant-mycorrhizal fungus symbiosis likely played a key role in this process by assisting plants to absorb water and nutrients from soil. *Here, in a diverse set of land plants, we investigated the evolutionary histories and functional conservation of three genes required for mycorrhiza formation in legumes and rice (Oryza sativa), DMI1, DMI3 and IPD3. *The genes were isolated from nearly all major plant lineages. Phylogenetic analyses showed that they had been vertically inherited since the origin of land plants. Further, cross-species mutant rescue experiments demonstrated that DMI3 genes from liverworts and hornworts could rescue Medicago truncatula dmi3 mutants for mycorrhiza formation. Yeast two-hybrid assays also showed that bryophyte DMI3 proteins could bind to downstream-acting M. trunculata IPD3 protein. Finally, molecular evolutionary analyses revealed that these genes were under purifying selection for maintenance of their ancestral functions in all mycorrhizal plant lineages. *These results indicate that the mycorrhizal genes were present in the common ancestor of land plants, and that their functions were largely conserved during land plant evolution. The evidence presented here strongly suggests that plant-mycorrhizal fungus symbiosis was one of the key processes that contributed to the origin of land flora.
Nitrogen fixation in legumes requires the development of root organs called nodules and their infection by symbiotic rhizobia. Over the last decade, Medicago truncatula has emerged as a major model plant for the analysis of plant-microbe symbioses and for addressing questions pertaining to legume biology. While the initiation of symbiosis and the development of nitrogen-fixing root nodules depend on the activation of a protein phosphorylation-mediated signal transduction cascade in response to symbiotic signals produced by the rhizobia, few sites of in vivo phosphorylation have previously been identified in M. truncatula. We have characterized sites of phosphorylation on proteins from M. truncatula roots, from both whole cell lysates and membrane-enriched fractions, using immobilized metal affinity chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. Here, we report 3,457 unique phosphopeptides spanning 3,404 nonredundant sites of in vivo phosphorylation on 829 proteins in M. truncatula Jemalong A17 roots, identified using the complementary tandem mass spectrometry fragmentation methods electron transfer dissociation and collision-activated dissociation. With this being, to our knowledge, the first large-scale plant phosphoproteomic study to utilize electron transfer dissociation, analysis of the identified phosphorylation sites revealed phosphorylation motifs not previously observed in plants. Furthermore, several of the phosphorylation motifs, including LxKxxs and RxxSxxxs, have yet to be reported as kinase specificities for in vivo substrates in any species, to our knowledge. Multiple sites of phosphorylation were identified on several key proteins involved in initiating rhizobial symbiosis, including SICKLE, NUCLEOPORIN133, and INTERACTING PROTEIN OF DMI3. Finally, we used these data to create an open-access online database for M. truncatula phosphoproteomic data.
Potato is the third most important food crop worldwide. However, genetic and genomic research of potato has lagged behind other major crops due to the autopolyploidy and highly heterozygous nature associated with the potato genome. Reliable and technically undemanding techniques are not available for functional gene assays in potato. Here we report the development of a transient gene expression and silencing system in potato. Gene expression or RNAi-based gene silencing constructs were delivered into potato leaf cells using Agrobacterium-mediated infiltration. Agroinfiltration of various gene constructs consistently resulted in potato cell transformation and spread of the transgenic cells around infiltration zones. The efficiency of agroinfiltration was affected by potato genotypes, concentration of Agrobacterium, and plant growth conditions. We demonstrated that the agroinfiltration-based transient gene expression can be used to detect potato proteins in sub-cellular compartments in living cells. We established a double agroinfiltration procedure that allows to test whether a specific gene is associated with potato late blight resistance pathway mediated by the resistance gene RB. This procedure provides a powerful approach for high throughput functional assay for a large number of candidate genes in potato late blight resistance.
Medicago truncatula IPD3 (MtIPD3) is an interacting protein of DMI3 (does not make infections 3), a Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CCaMK) essential for both arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and rhizobial symbioses. However, the function of MtIPD3 in root symbioses has not been demonstrated in M. truncatula, because of a lack of knockout mutants for functional analysis. In this study, the availability of IPD3 knockout mutants in rice (Oryza sativa) was exploited to test the function of OsIPD3 in AM symbiosis. Three independent retrotransposon Tos17 insertion lines of OsIPD3 were selected and the phenotypes characterized upon inoculation with the AM fungus Glomus intraradices. Phenotypic and genetic analyses revealed that the Osipd3 mutants were unable to establish a symbiotic association with G. intraradices. In conclusion, IPD3 represents a novel gene required for root symbiosis with AM fungi in plants.
Legume rotation has allowed a consistent increase in crop yield and consequently in human population since the antiquity. Legumes will also be instrumental in our ability to maintain the sustainability of our agriculture while facing the challenges of increasing food and biofuel demand. Medicago truncatula and Lotus japonicus have emerged during the last decade as two major model systems for legume biology. Initially developed to dissect plant-microbe symbiotic interactions and especially legume nodulation, these two models are now widely used in a variety of biological fields from plant physiology and development to population genetics and structural genomics. This review highlights the genetic and genomic tools available to the M. truncatula community. Comparative genomic approaches to transfer biological information between model systems and legume crops are also discussed.
NORK in legumes encodes a receptor-like kinase that is required for Nod factor signaling and root nodule development. Using Medicago truncatula NORK as bait in a yeast two-hybrid assay, we identified 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA reductase 1 (Mt HMGR1) as a NORK interacting partner. HMGR1 belongs to a multigene family in M. truncatula, and different HMGR isoforms are key enzymes in the mevalonate biosynthetic pathway leading to the production of a diverse array of isoprenoid compounds. Testing other HMGR members revealed a specific interaction between NORK and HMGR1. Mutagenesis and deletion analysis showed that this interaction requires the cytosolic active kinase domain of NORK and the cytosolic catalytic domain of HMGR1. NORK homologs from Lotus japonicus and Sesbania rostrata also interacted with Mt HMGR1, but homologous nonsymbiotic kinases of M. truncatula did not. Pharmacological inhibition of HMGR activities decreased nodule number and delayed nodulation, supporting the importance of the mevalonate pathway in symbiotic development. Decreasing HMGR1 expression in M. truncatula transgenic roots by RNA interference led to a dramatic decrease in nodulation, confirming that HMGR1 is essential for nodule development. Recruitment of HMGR1 by NORK could be required for production of specific isoprenoid compounds, such as cytokinins, phytosteroids, or isoprenoid moieties involved in modification of signaling proteins.
In addition to establishing symbiotic relationships with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, legumes also enter into a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with rhizobial bacteria that results in the formation of root nodules. Several genes involved in the development of both arbuscular mycorrhiza and legume nodulation have been cloned in model legumes. Among them, Medicago truncatula DMI1 (DOESN'T MAKE INFECTIONS1) is required for the generation of nucleus-associated calcium spikes in response to the rhizobial signaling molecule Nod factor. DMI1 encodes a membrane protein with striking similarities to the Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum potassium channel (MthK). The cytosolic C terminus of DMI1 contains a RCK (regulator of the conductance of K(+)) domain that in MthK acts as a calcium-regulated gating ring controlling the activity of the channel. Here we show that a dmi1 mutant lacking the entire C terminus acts as a dominant-negative allele interfering with the formation of nitrogen-fixing nodules and abolishing the induction of calcium spikes by the G-protein agonist Mastoparan. Using both the full-length DMI1 and this dominant-negative mutant protein we show that DMI1 increases the sensitivity of a sodium- and lithium-hypersensitive yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) mutant toward those ions and that the C-terminal domain plays a central role in regulating this response. We also show that DMI1 greatly reduces the release of calcium from internal stores in yeast, while the dominant-negative allele appears to have the opposite effect. This work suggests that DMI1 is not directly responsible for Nod factor-induced calcium changes, but does have the capacity to regulate calcium channels in both yeast and plants.
Many higher plants establish symbiotic relationships with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi that improve their ability to acquire nutrients from the soil. In addition to establishing AM symbiosis, legumes also enter into a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with bacteria known as rhizobia that results in the formation of root nodules. Several genes involved in the perception and transduction of bacterial symbiotic signals named "Nod factors" have been cloned recently in model legumes through forward genetic approaches. Among them, DMI3 (Doesn't Make Infections 3) is a calcium- and calmodulin-dependent kinase required for the establishment of both nodulation and AM symbiosis. We have identified, by a yeast two-hybrid system, a novel protein interacting with DMI3 named IPD3 (Interacting Protein of DMI3). IPD3 is predicted to interact with DMI3 through a C-terminal coiled-coil domain. Chimeric IPD3::GFP is localized to the nucleus of transformed Medicago truncatula root cells, in which split yellow fluorescent protein assays suggest that IPD3 and DMI3 physically interact in Nicotiana benthamiana. Like DMI3, IPD3 is extremely well conserved among the angiosperms and is absent from Arabidopsis. Despite this high level of conservation, none of the homologous proteins have a demonstrated biological or biochemical function. This work provides the first evidence of the involvement of IPD3 in a nuclear interaction with DMI3.
Legumes utilize a common signaling pathway to form symbiotic associations both with rhizobial bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. The perception of microbial signals is believed to take place at the plasma membrane, activating a cascade that converges on the nucleus where transcriptional reprogramming facilitates the symbioses. Forward genetic strategies have identified genes in this signaling pathway including Medicago truncatula DMI1 (Doesn't Make Infections 1) that encodes a putative ion channel. Although the DMI1 homologs from Lotus japonicus, CASTOR and POLLUX, were recently reported to be localized in plastids, we report here that a functional DMI1::GFP fusion is localized to the nuclear envelope in M. truncatula roots when expressed both from a constitutive 35S promoter and from a native DMI1 promoter. Localization may be mediated in part by sequences located within the amino-terminus of DMI1. This region of DMI1 is required for symbiotic signal transduction, and its replacement with a bona fide plastid transit peptide from the glutamine synthetase 2 gene does not restore DMI1 function. These new data place DMI1 in the nuclear envelope in close proximity to the origin of Nod-factor-induced calcium spiking.
Most land plants can form a root symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi for assimilation of inorganic phosphate from the soil. In contrast, the nitrogen-fixing root nodule symbiosis is almost completely restricted to the legumes. The finding that the two symbioses share common signaling components in legumes suggests that the evolutionarily younger nitrogen-fixing symbiosis has recruited functions from the more ancient AM symbiosis. The recent advances in cloning of the genes required for nodulation and AM symbioses from the two model legumes, Medicago truncatula and Lotus japonicus, provide a unique opportunity to address biological questions pertaining to the evolution of root symbioses in plants. Here, we report that nearly all cloned legume genes required for nodulation and AM symbioses have their putative orthologs in nonlegumes. The orthologous relationship can be clearly defined on the basis of both sequence similarity and microsyntenic relationship. The results presented here serve as a prelude to the comparative analysis of orthologous gene function between legumes and nonlegumes and facilitate our understanding of how gene functions and signaling pathways have evolved to generate species- or family-specific phenotypes.
The control of host-specificity in the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis has been a topic of long-standing interest to plant biologists. By the early 1990s, biologists had deciphered the chemical signals that trigger early symbiotic responses. Flavonoids from the plant root trigger bacterial gene expression and the production of lipo-chitooligosaccharide signals (called Nod factors) that are recognized by the plant host. Genetic differences between bacterial strains modify the oligosaccharide backbone, for example by the addition of sulfate, acetate or fucose, and simultaneously alter the host-specificity of the purified Nod factor and the bacterium. Recent studies have begun to reveal the genetic and molecular basis of Nod-factor perception in legumes, a signaling system that also controls plant interactions with mycorrhizal fungi.