Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

By analyzing successive lifestyle stages of a model Rhizobium-legume symbiosis using mariner-based transposon insertion sequencing (INSeq), we have defined the genes required for rhizosphere growth, root colonization, bacterial infection, N2-fixing bacteroids, and release from legume (pea) nodules. While only 27 genes are annotated as nif and fix in Rhizobium leguminosarum, we show 603 genetic regions (593 genes, 5 transfer RNAs, and 5 RNA features) are required for the competitive ability to nodulate pea and fix N2 Of these, 146 are common to rhizosphere growth through to bacteroids. This large number of genes, defined as rhizosphere-progressive, highlights how critical successful competition in the rhizosphere is to subsequent infection and nodulation. As expected, there is also a large group (211) specific for nodule bacteria and bacteroid function. Nodule infection and bacteroid formation require genes for motility, cell envelope restructuring, nodulation signaling, N2 fixation, and metabolic adaptation. Metabolic adaptation includes urea, erythritol and aldehyde metabolism, glycogen synthesis, dicarboxylate metabolism, and glutamine synthesis (GlnII). There are 17 separate lifestyle adaptations specific to rhizosphere growth and 23 to root colonization, distinct from infection and nodule formation. These results dramatically highlight the importance of competition at multiple stages of a Rhizobium-legume symbiosis.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date



N2 fixation, Rhizobium, legume, nodulation, rhizosphere