Mycelial network-mediated rhizobial dispersal enhances legume nodulation

Wei Zhang, Xiao Gang Li, Kai Sun, Meng Jun Tang, Fang Ji Xu, Ming Zhang, Chuan Chao Dai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The access of rhizobia to legume host is a prerequisite for nodulation. Rhizobia are poorly motile in soil, while filamentous fungi are known to grow extensively across soil pores. Since root exudates-driven bacterial chemotaxis cannot explain rhizobial long-distance dispersal, mycelia could constitute ideal dispersal networks to help rhizobial enrichment in the legume rhizosphere from bulk soil. Thus, we hypothesized that mycelia networks act as vectors that enable contact between rhizobia and legume and influence subsequent nodulation. By developing a soil microcosm system, we found that a facultatively biotrophic fungus, Phomopsis liquidambaris, helps rhizobial migration from bulk soil to the peanut (Arachis hypogaea) rhizosphere and, hence, triggers peanut–rhizobium nodulation but not seen in the absence of mycelia. Assays of dispersal modes suggested that cell proliferation and motility mediated rhizobial dispersal along mycelia, and fungal exudates might contribute to this process. Furthermore, transcriptomic analysis indicated that genes associated with the cell division, chemosensory system, flagellum biosynthesis, and motility were regulated by Ph. liquidambaris, thus accounting for the detected rhizobial dispersal along hyphae. Our results indicate that rhizobia use mycelia as dispersal networks that migrate to legume rhizosphere and trigger nodulation. This work highlights the importance of mycelial network-based bacterial dispersal in legume–rhizobium symbiosis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalISME Journal
Pages (from-to)1015–1029
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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