Root and nodule : lateral organ development in N2-fixing plants

T.T. Xiao

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Plants are sessile organisms. This characteristic severely limits their ability of approaching nutrients. To cope with this issue, plants evolved endosymbiotic relationships with soil fungi to extend their interface with surrounding environment. In case of arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) fungi this occurred about 400 million years ago. The AM fungi can interact with most angiosperms. In this symbiotic relationship, the plant get nutrients, especially phosphate, from the fungi, and plants provide carbohydrates to the fungi in return. About 60 million years ago, a group of plants evolved N2-fixing nodule symbiosis. This includes interactions of legumes plants with rhizobium bacteria and actinorhizal plants with Frankia bacteria. Currently, all plant species that are able to establish a nodule symbiosis belong to the Rosid I clade. In the nodule symbioses the bacteria produce ammonia and the plant provides carbohydrates to the bacteria.

In the root nodule symbiosis, the nitrogen fixing bacteria are hosted in the cell of the root nodule. Although the function and structure of the root nodule are different from the other plant organs, it does share some features with other organs, especially the lateral root. To get further insight into the similarities and differences between root nodule and lateral root, I made use of the model legume (Medicago truncatula) and the non-legume Parasponia (Parasponia andersonii) that is the only genus outside the legumes that forms nodules with rhizobium.

In Chapter 1, I will give a general introduction on the process of root nodule formation in legume plants. I will mainly focus on nodule organogenesis and the plant hormones that are known to be important for this process. Root nodules are supposed to have a close relationship with lateral roots. Therefore a comparison between lateral root and root nodule development will be included in this introduction.

Lateral root development has especially been studied in in Arabidopsis. To be able to compare the root and root nodule developmental process, especially at the early stages, a Medicago lateral root development fate map has been made. This will be described in Chapter 2 and showed that in addition to the pericycle, endodermis and cortex are also mitotically activated during lateral root formation. Pericycle derived cells only form part of the stem cell niche as endodermis derived cells also contribute to this.

In Chapter 3, a Medicago root nodule fate map is presented. In this Chapter, the contribution of different root cell layers to the mature nodule will be described. A set of molecular markers for root tissue, cell cycle and rhizobial infection have been used to facilitate this analysis. The fate map showed that nodule meristem originates from the third cortical layer and many cell layers of the base of the nodule are directly derived from cells of the inner cortical layers, root endodermis and pericycle. The inner cortical cell layers form about 8 cell layers of infected cells while the root endodermis and pericycle derived cells forms the uninfected tissues that are located at the base of the mature nodule. Nodule vascular is formed from the part of the primordium derived from the cortex. The development of primordia was divided in 6 stages. To illustrate the value of this fate map, a few published mutant nodule phenotypes are re-analyzed.

In Chapter 4, the role of auxin at early stages of Medicago nodule formation is studied. In this chapter auxin accumulation is studied during the 6 stages of primordium development. It is studied by using DR5::GUS as an auxin reporter. Auxin accumulation associates with mitotic activity within the primordium. Previously, it has been postulated by theoretical modelling that the accumulation of auxin during nodulation is induced by a local reduction of PIN (auxin efflux carriers) levels. We tested this theory, but this was hampered due to the low level of PIN proteins in the susceptible zone of the root. It is still possible that auxin accumulation is initiated by a decrease of PIN levels. However, the level of 2 PIN already increase before the first divisions are induced. In young primordia they accumulate in all cells. At later stages PINs mainly accumulate at the nodule periphery and the future nodule meristem. The subcellular position of PINs strongly indicates they play a key role in the accumulation of auxin in primordia.

Previous studies showed that a group of root apical meristem regulators is expressed in the nodule meristem. In Chapter 5, we tested whether the Medicago nodule meristem expresses PLETHORA genes that are expressed in the root meristem. These PLETHORAs were functionally analysed, by using RNAi approach using a nodule specific promoter. Knockdown of PLETHORAs expression hampers primordium formation and meristem growth. Hence, we conclude rhizobium recruited key regulators of root development for nodule development.

In Chapter 6, we first introduced the non-legume lateral root and nodule fate maps by using Parasponia. In Parasponia nodules the nodule central vascular bundle is completely derived from the pericycle similar as its lateral roots. The nodule infected cells were shown to be derived from cortex. Together with the data obtained in this thesis, this Chapter further discussed several developmental aspects of the different lateral root organs. Especially, it focused on the vasculature and meristem formation of legume and non-legume nodules.

 

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Bisseling, Ton, Promotor
  • Geurts, Rene, Co-promotor
  • Franssen, Henk, Co-promotor
Award date20 May 2015
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462572768
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • medicago
  • root nodules
  • endosymbiosis
  • symbiosis
  • mycorrhizas
  • nitrogen fixation
  • plant development
  • molecular biology

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    Xiao, T. T. (2015). Root and nodule : lateral organ development in N2-fixing plants. Wageningen: Wageningen University.