Host-specificity mutants of Rhizobium meliloti have additive effects in situ on initiation of alfalfa nodules

Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, Wolfgang D. Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pairs of Rhizobium meliloti nod mutants were co-inoculated onto alfalfa (Medicago saliva L.) roots to determine whether one nod mutant could correct, in situ, for defects in nodule initiation of another nod mutant. None of the Tn5 or nod deletion mutants were able to help each other form nodules when co-inoculated together in the absence of the wild-type. However, as previously observed, individual nod mutants significantly increased nodule initiation by low dosages of co-inoculated wild-type cells. Thus, nod mutants do produce certain signal substances or other factors which overcome limits to nodule initiation by the wild-type. When pairs of nod mutants were co-inoculated together with the wild-type, the stimulation of nodulation provided by individual nodABC mutants was not additive. However, clearly additive or synergistic stimulation was observed between pairs of mutants with a defective host-specificity gene (nodE, nodF, or nodH). Each pair of host-specificity mutants stimulated first nodule formation to nearly the maximum levels obtainable with high dosages of the wild-type. Mutant bacteria were recovered from only about 10% of these nodules, whereas the co-inoculated wild-type was present in all these nodules and substantially outnumbered mutant bacteria in nodules occupied by both. Thus, these mutant co-inoculants appeared to help their parent in situ even though they could not help each other. Sterile culture filtrates from wild-type cells stimulated nodule initiation by low dosages of the wild-type, but only when a host-specificity mutant was also present. The results from our studies seem consistent with the possibility that pairs of host-specificity mutants are able to help the wild-type initiate nodule formation by sustained production of complementary signals required for induction of symbiotic host responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-116
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Medicago
  • Mutant (Rhizobium)
  • Rhizobium (host-specificity mutants)
  • Root nodule initiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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