The Evolutionary Aspects of Legume Nitrogen–Fixing Nodule Symbiosis

Defeng Shen, Ton Bisseling*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Nitrogen-fixing root nodule symbiosis can sustain the development of the host plants under nitrogen-limiting conditions. Such symbiosis occurs only in a clade of angiosperms known as the nitrogen-fixing clade (NFC). It has long been proposed that root nodule symbiosis evolved several times (in parallel) in the NFC. Two recent phylogenomic studies compared the genomes of nodulating and related non-nodulating species across the four orders of the NFC and found that genes essential for nodule formation are lost or pseudogenized in the non-nodulating species. As these symbiosis genes are specifically involved in the symbiotic interaction, it means that the presence of pseudogenes and the loss of symbiosis genes strongly suggest that their ancestor, which still had functional genes, most likely had a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These findings agree with the hypothesis that nodulation evolved once at the common ancestor of the NFC, and challenge the hypothesis of parallel evolution. In this chapter, we will cover the current understandings on actinorhizal-type and legume nodule development, and discuss the evolution of the legume nodule type.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResults and Problems in Cell Differentiation
EditorsM. Kloc
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783030518493
ISBN (Print)9783030518486
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Dec 2020

Publication series

NameResults and Problems in Cell Differentiation
ISSN (Print)0080-1844
ISSN (Electronic)1861-0412

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