How rhizobia adapt to the nodule environment.
Ledermann R., Schulte CCM., Poole PS.
Rhizobia are a phylogenetically diverse group of soil bacteria that engage in mutualistic interactions with legume plants. Although specifics of the symbioses differ between strains and plants, all symbioses ultimately result in the formation of specialized root nodule organs which host the nitrogen-fixing microsymbionts called bacteroids. Inside nodules, bacteroids encounter unique conditions that necessitate global reprogramming of physiological processes and rerouting of their metabolism. Decades of research have addressed these questions using genetics, omics approaches, and more recently computational modelling. Here we discuss the common adaptations of rhizobia to the nodule environment that define the core principles of bacteroid functioning. All bacteroids are growth-arrested and perform energy-intensive nitrogen fixation fueled by plant-provided C4-dicarboxylates at nanomolar oxygen levels. At the same time, bacteroids are subject to host control and sanctioning that ultimately determine their fitness and have fundamental importance for the evolution of a stable mutualistic relationship.