Department of Biochemistry, Calcutta University, 35 Ballygaunge Circular Road, Calcutta 700019, India
In legume--rhizobia symbiosis, Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CCaMK) is essential for rhizobial invasion through infection threads in the epidermis and nodule organogenesis in the cortex. Though CCaMK is actively transcribed in the infected zone of nodules, its role in the later stages of nodule development remain elusive because of the epidermal arrest of “loss-of-function” mutants. In Aeschynomeneae legumes such as Arachis hypogea, rhizobia directly access the cortex, where nodule organogenesis as well as endosymbiont dissemination take place by multiplication of infected cortical cells. We characterized CCaMK (GI:195542474) from A. hypogea and downregulated the kinase through RNA interference (RNAi) to understand its role during organogenesis of its characteristic aeschynomenoid nodules. In CCaMK downregulated plants, the inception of nodules was delayed by approximately 4 weeks and nodulation capacity was decreased (>90%). The infected zones of the RNA interference nodules were scattered with uninfected or binucleated cells as opposed to the homogeneous infection zone in empty-vector-transformed nodules. Symbiosomes in RNAi nodules were pleomorphic with diverse geometrical shapes or arrested during division in the final stages of their fission as opposed to uniform-sized, spherical symbiosomes in empty-vector-transformed nodules. Together, our results reveal CCaMK to be essential for development of functional aeschynomenoid nodules, with a critical role in rhizobial dissemination during nodule organogenesis.