Spontaneous nodules induce feedback suppression of nodulation in alfalfa

Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, Priyavadan A. Joshi, Peter M. Gresshoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A small subpopulation of alfalfa (Medicago saliva L.) plants grown without fixed nitrogen can develop root nodules in the absence of Rhizobium. Cytological studies showed that these nodules were organized structures with no inter- or intracellular bacteria but with the histological characteristics of a normal indeterminate nodule. Few if any viable bacteria were recovered from the nodules after surface sterilization, and when the nodular content was used to inoculate alfalfa roots no nodulation was observed. These spontaneous nodules were formed mainly on the primary roots in the region susceptible to Rhizobium infection between 4 and 6 d after seed imbibition. Spontaneous nodules appeared as early as 10 d after germination and emerged at a rate comparable to normal nodules. The formation of spontaneous nodules on the primary root suppressed nodulation in lateral roots after inoculation with R. meliloti RCR2011. Excision of spontaneous nodules at inoculation eliminated the suppressive response. Our results indicate that the presence of Rhizobium is not required for nodule organogenesis and the elicitation of feedback regulation of nodule formation in alfalfa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-82
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Feedback regulation (nodulation)
  • Medicago (nodulation)
  • Nodulation (spontaneous)
  • Rhizobium
  • Symbiosis (legume-Rhizobium)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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