Exploring a rhizobium to fix nitrogen in non-leguminous plants by using a tumor-formation root pathogen

Ying Zhao, Lixia Gao, Zhixiao Gao, Binnian Tian, Tao Chen, Jiatao Xie, Jiasen Cheng, Yanping Fu, Youguo Li, Shunyuan Xiao, Ton Bisseling, Daohong Jiang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Over 110 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer every year is used for crop production. Scientists have dreamed of enabling rhizobial nitrogen fixation in non-leguminous crops to mitigate the increasing demand for nitrogen fertilizer. However, despite decades of research, rhizobial nitrogen fixation in non-host plants has not been demonstrated. Here, we reported that an N-fixing rhizobium and a clubroot pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae exhibited a synergistic effect on fixing nitrogen in cruciferous plants. Rhizobia were found to invade P. brassicae-infected rapeseed (Brassica napus) roots in the field. The colonization of rhizobium on rapeseed roots was confirmed by co-inoculating Mesorhizobium huakuii with P. brassicae under controlled laboratory conditions. M. huakuii infection could alleviate clubroot symptoms and promote the growth of diseased rapeseeds. M. huakuii could fix nitrogen in P. brassicae-infected plants based on the results of 15N isotope dilution tests. The expression of homologs of legume genes required for symbiosis and early-nodulin genes was significantly upregulated in Arabidopsis during early infection by P. brassicae. More importantly, M. huakuii could even fix nitrogen in P. brassicae-resistant rapeseed cultivar and promote plant growth when co-inoculated with P. brassicae. Our findings provide a new avenue to understand the interaction of rhizobia with non-host plants, stimulate the exploration of fixing nitrogen in non-leguminous plants by nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, and develop a strategy for both disease control and nitrogen fixation on non-host crops.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalPhytopathology Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Brassica napus
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Non-leguminous plants
  • Plant pathogen
  • Plasmodiophora brassicae
  • Rhizobia


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