Chemotaxis, induced gene expression and competitiveness in the rhizosphere

Wolfgang D. Bauer, Gustavo Caetano-Anollés

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rhizobia are soil bacteria which symbiotically infect legume roots and generate nodules in which they fix atmospheric nitrogen for the plant in exchange for photosynthetically fixed carbon. A crucial aspect of signal exchange between these symbionts is the secretion of phenolic compounds by the host root which induce nodulation gene expression in the bacteria. Stimulation of nod gene expression by host phenolics is required for nodule formation, is biochemically specific at 10-6M, and is mediated by nodD. We and others have shown that rhizobia display chemotaxis to 10-9M of the same phenolic compounds. Chemotaxis to inducer phenolics is selectively reduced or abolished by mutations in certain nod genes governing nodulation efficiency or host specificity. Conversely, mutations in rhizobia that affect general motility or chemotaxis have substantial effects on nodulation efficiency and competitiveness. These findings suggest that microbes entering the rhizosphere environment may utilize minor, non-nutrient components in root exudates as signals to guide their movement towards the root surface and elicit changes in gene expression appropriate to this environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Rhizobium
  • chemoattractants
  • luteolin
  • nod gene
  • nodulation
  • phenolics
  • symbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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