Development of N2-fixing nodules on the wetland legume Lotus uliginosus exposed to conditions of flooding



Seeds of the wetland legume, Lotus uliginosus, were germinated and grown in vermiculite which was either continuously flooded or well-drained. Plants from both treatments were infected by Mesorhizobium loti strain DUS341 via a ‘classical’ root hair pathway, although some flooded plants appeared to be infected via enlarged epidermal cells. Subsequent to infection by M. loti, nodule meristems, which had developed within the root outer cortex, were penetrated by infection threads that released bacteria into the meristematic cells. The infection threads and infection droplets were immunogold labelled with monoclonal antibodies (MAC265 and MAC236) that recognize epitopes (at approx. 155/170 and 170/210 kDa, respectively) on a glycoprotein component of the matrix that surrounded the bacteria within the threads or droplets. Although labelling of infection threads or infection droplets with MAC236 was stronger than that with MAC265, both antibodies strongly labelled material occluding intercellular spaces in the cortices of developing nodules that had not yet expressed nitrogenase (as determined by a lack of signal after immunogold labelling with an antibody raised against nitrogenase component II). After 60 d, nitrogenase activity, shoot and root dry weights, and nodule fresh weight per plant did not differ between the treatments. After a further 30 d submergence, the flooded stems developed extensive aerenchyma and there was profuse development of (nodulated) adventitious roots. Nodules also formed at the junction of adventitious roots and the subtending stem and these were connected vascularly to a small stalk of tissue which gave rise to both a nodule and an adventitious root. The flooded nodules had prominent lenticels, and possible air pathways from the atmosphere to the nitrogen-fixing bacteroids are discussed.