Hijacking of leguminous nodulation signaling by the rhizobial type III secretion system

Shin Okazaki, Takakazu Kaneko, Shusei Sato, Kazuhiko Saeki

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186 Citations (Scopus)


Root-nodule symbiosis between leguminous plants and nitrogenfixing bacteria (rhizobia) involves molecular communication between the two partners. Key components for the establishment of symbiosis are rhizobium-derived lipochitooligosaccharides (Nod factors; NFs) and their leguminous receptors (NFRs) that initiate nodule development and bacterial entry. Here we demonstrate that the soybean microsymbiont Bradyrhizobium elkanii uses the type III secretion system (T3SS), which is known for its delivery of virulence factors by pathogenic bacteria, to promote symbiosis. Intriguingly, wild-type B. elkanii, but not the T3SS-deficient mutant, was able to form nitrogen-fixing nodules on soybean nfr mutant En1282. Furthermore, even the NF-deficient B. elkanii mutant induced nodules unless T3SS genes were mutated. Transcriptional analysis revealed that expression of the soybean nodulationspecific genes ENOD40 and NIN was increased in the roots of En1282 inoculated with B. elkanii but not with its T3SS mutant, suggesting that T3SS activates host nodulation signaling by bypassing NF recognition. Root-hair curling and infection threads were not observed in the roots of En1282 inoculated with B. elkanii, indicating that T3SS is involved in crack entry or intercellular infection. These findings suggest that B. elkanii has adopted a pathogenic system for activating host symbiosis signaling to promote its infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17131-17136
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Oct 15


  • Effector
  • Pathogenesis
  • Plant disease resistance
  • Symbiotic nitrogen fixation


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