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Host plants reprogram their root cells to accommodate symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria

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To enter into symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, host plants reprogram their root cells. An LMU team has now identified a calcium-binding protein complex that can be persuaded to spontaneously induce the formation of root nodules.

In almost all ecosystems, plant growth rates are limited by the availability of fixed nitrogen. Symbiotic interactions between plants and bacterial species that are capable of converting the nitrogen gas in the atmosphere into ammonium ions, which plants can use as a source of nitrogen, are therefore of great agronomical significance. Legumes accommodate their symbionts in special organs called root nodules, which are normally induced only if the corresponding bacteria are present in the vicinity of the roots.

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