The presence of nodules on legume root systems can alter phenotypic plasticity in response to internal nitrogen independent of nitrogen fixation

Chooi Hua Goh, Adrienne B. Nicotra, Ulrike Mathesius*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    All higher plants show developmental plasticity in response to the availability of nitrogen (N) in the soil. In legumes, N starvation causes the formation of root nodules, where symbiotic rhizobacteria fix atmospheric N2 for the host in exchange for fixed carbon (C) from the shoot. Here, we tested whether plastic responses to internal [N] of legumes are altered by their symbionts. Glasshouse experiments compared root phenotypes of three legumes, Medicago truncatula, Medicago sativa and Trifolium subterraneum, inoculated with their compatible symbiont partners and grown under four nitrate levels. In addition, six strains of rhizobia, differing in their ability to fix N2 in M. truncatula, were compared to test if plastic responses to internal [N] were dependent on the rhizobia or N2-fixing capability of the nodules. We found that the presence of rhizobia affected phenotypic plasticity of the legumes to internal [N], particularly in root length and root mass ratio (RMR), in a plant species-dependent way. While root length responses of M. truncatula to internal [N] were dependent on the ability of rhizobial symbionts to fix N2, RMR response to internal [N] was dependent only on initiation of nodules, irrespective of N2-fixing ability of the rhizobia strains.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)883-896
    Number of pages14
    JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
    Volume39
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

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