John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, NR4 7UH, U.K.
Using various mutant strains of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae, we have investigated the role of nodO in stimulating infection thread development in vetch and pea. Analysis of R. leguminosarum bv. viciae nodE and nodO mutants revealed no significant difference from the wild-type infection phenotype. Conversely, an R. leguminosarum bv. viciae nodE nodO double mutant was severely impaired in its ability to form normal infection threads. This strain displayed a number of novel infection-related events, including intracellular accumulations of bacteria at the base of root hairs, distended and enlarged infection threads, and reversed threads growing up root hairs. Since normal infection was seen in a nodE mutant, nodO must suppress these abnormal infection phenomena. A deletion mutant, retaining only the nodD and nodABCIJ genes, also formed intracellular accumulations at the base of root hairs. Addition of R. leguminosarum bv. viciae nodO could alleviate this phenotype and restore some infection thread formation, although these threads appeared to be abnormal. Exogenous application of R. leguminosarum bv. viciae Nod factors could not alleviate the aberrant infection phenotype. Our results show that the most basic Nod factor structure can allow bacterial entry into the root hair, and that nodO can promote subsequent infection thread development.