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Expression Map for Genes Involved in Nitrogen and Carbon Metabolism in Alfalfa Root Nodules

June 1999 , Volume 12 , Number  6
Pages  526 - 535

Gian B. Trepp , 1 , 2 Stephen J. Temple , 1 Bruna Bucciarelli , 1 Li Fang Shi , 1 and Carroll P. Vance 1 , 3

1Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, 411 Borlaug Hall, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul 55108, U.S.A.; 2Institut fuer Pflanzenwissenschaften ETH-Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland; 3U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Plant Science Research Unit, 411 Borlaug Hall, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108, U.S.A.

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Accepted 2 March 1999.

During root nodule development several key genes involved in nitrogen fixation and assimilation exhibit enhanced levels of expression. However, little is known about the temporal and spatial distribution patterns of these transcripts. In a systematic study the transcripts for 13 of the essential enzymes involved in alfalfa (Medicago sativa) root nodule nitrogen and carbon metabolism were localized by in situ hybridization. A serial section approach allowed the construction of a map that reflects the relative distribution of these transcripts. In 33-day-old root nodules, the expression of nifH, NADH-dependent glutamate synthase (NADH-GOGAT; EC and a cytosolic isoform of glutamine synthetase (GS13; GS; EC were localized predominantly in a 5- to 15-cell-wide region in the distal part of the nitrogen-fixing zone. This zone was also the region of high expression for leghemoglobin, a second cytosolic glutamine synthetase isoform (GS100), aspartate aminotransferase-2 (AAT-2; EC, asparagine synthetase (AS;, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC; EC, and sucrose synthase (SuSy; EC This suggests that, in 33-day-old alfalfa root nodules, nitrogen fixation is restricted to this 5- to 15-cell-wide area. The continued significant expression of the GS100 subclass of GS and AS in the proximal part of the nitrogen-fixing zone implicates these gene products in nitrogen remobilization. A low constitutive expression of NADH-dependent glutamate dehydrogenase (NADH-GDH; EC was observed throughout the nodule. The transcript distribution map will be used as a navigational tool to assist in developing strategies for the genetic engineering of alfalfa root nodules for enhanced nitrogen assimilation.

Additional keywords: amino acids, nitrogenase, oxygen, organic acids, Sinorhizobium meliloti.

The American Phytopathological Society, 1999