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Science 327 (5969): 1122-1126

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Plant Peptides Govern Terminal Differentiation of Bacteria in Symbiosis

Willem Van de Velde,1 Grigor Zehirov,2 Agnes Szatmari,1,3 Monika Debreczeny,4 Hironobu Ishihara,2 Zoltan Kevei,4 Attila Farkas,4 Kata Mikulass,4 Andrea Nagy,4 Hilda Tiricz,4 Beatrice Satiat-Jeunemaître,1 Benoit Alunni,1 Mickael Bourge,1 Ken-ichi Kucho,2 Mikiko Abe,2 Attila Kereszt,4 Gergely Maroti,4 Toshiki Uchiumi,2 Eva Kondorosi,1,4,* Peter Mergaert1

Abstract: Legume plants host nitrogen-fixing endosymbiotic Rhizobium bacteria in root nodules. In Medicago truncatula, the bacteria undergo an irreversible (terminal) differentiation mediated by hitherto unidentified plant factors. We demonstrated that these factors are nodule-specific cysteine-rich (NCR) peptides that are targeted to the bacteria and enter the bacterial membrane and cytosol. Obstruction of NCR transport in the dnf1-1 signal peptidase mutant correlated with the absence of terminal bacterial differentiation. On the contrary, ectopic expression of NCRs in legumes devoid of NCRs or challenge of cultured rhizobia with peptides provoked symptoms of terminal differentiation. Because NCRs resemble antimicrobial peptides, our findings reveal a previously unknown innovation of the host plant, which adopts effectors of the innate immune system for symbiosis to manipulate the cell fate of endosymbiotic bacteria.

1 Institut des Sciences du Végétal, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France.
2 Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Kagoshima University, 890 0065 Kagoshima, Japan.
3 Plant Protection Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1022 Budapest, Hungary.
4 Institute for Plant Genomics, Human Biotechnology and Bioenergy, Bay Zoltan Foundation for Applied Research, 6726 Szeged, Hungary.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: eva.kondorosi{at}isv.cnrs-gif.fr


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