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Root hair deformation in the white clover/Rhizobium trifolii symbiosis


T. V. Bhuvaneswari (reprint requests)


Rhizobium trifolii most frequently infects its host white clover (Trifolium repens L.) by means of infection threads formed in markedly curled root hairs. Rhizobium infections are classified as either lateral or apical based on whether they originate in the branches or at the apex of the root hairs. A quantitative estimate of lateral and apical infection in the region of the host root (Trifolium repens L. cv. Regal Ladino) that possessed mature and immature root hairs at the time of inoculation with Rhizobium trifolii TAI (CSIRO, Canberra City, Australia) indicated that lateral infection occurred more frequently in the mature root hair region of the root. Apical infections were more common in the immature root hair region. Cell free filtrates collected from R. trifolii cultured in association with the host roots induced branching in white clover root hairs. A partially purified preparation of the branching factor was obtained from freeze-dried filtrates by ethanol extraction and ion exchange chromatography. Preliminary studies on the characteristics of these substances suggest that some are dialyzable and heat stable white others are non-dialyzable and heat labile. The dialyzable, heat-stable compounds contain neutral sugars and range between 1200 to 10000 daltons in size. In roots that were exposed to low concentrations (6–25 μg-ml−1) of these partially purified deformation factors before inoculation, the developmentally mature root hairs were deformed at the time of inoculation. Nodules appeared in the mature and immature root hair region of these plants at the same time. In plants exposed to water, nodules were observed in the immature root hair region and mature root hair regions 3 and 5 days after inoculation, respectively. Based on these results, we conclude that the nodule development was hastened in the plants exposed to the root hair-deforming substances because the mature root hairs of these plants were made infectible at the time of inoculation by this exposure.