Two soil-dwelling strangers – a friend and a foe – approach a plant and communicate with it in order to enter a partnership. The friend wants to trade nitrogen for food. The foe is a parasite that wants to burrow in and harm the plant.
Fluorescence confocal microscope images of plant epidermal and root hair cells expressing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) fused with microtubule associated protein, MAP4 (left), and actin binding protein, Talin (right). New evidence confirms that root-knot nematodes and rhizobia produce an essentially identical cytoskeletal response in these tiny root hairs of L. japonicus.
In a new finding published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at North Carolina State University have found that the two strangers communicate with the plant in very similar ways. The plant’s responses to both friend and foe are also remarkably similar.
Using high-tech microscopy and florescent imaging techniques that allow for real-time, three-dimensional study in living cells over time, the NC State researchers discovered that the model legume Lotus japonicus responded similarly to signals from both rhizobia, the friends that fix nitrogen for the plant, and root-knot nematodes, the parasitic foes that want to harm the plant. Signals from both outsiders induce rapid changes in distribution of the plant’s cytoskeleton, which is part of a pathway that leads to a series of growth changes that include the formation of either nodules housing bacteria or giant cells from which the nematodes feed.
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