• rhizobia;
  • endophytic bacteria;
  • nodulation;
  • plant growth promoting activity;
  • amplified fragment length polymorphism;
  • biogeography


A total of 159 endophytic bacteria were isolated from surface-sterilized root nodules of wild perennial Glycyrrhiza legumes growing on 40 sites in central and northwestern China. Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) genomic fingerprinting and sequencing of partial 16S rRNA genes revealed that the collection mainly consisted of Mesorhizobium, Rhizobium, Sinorhizobium, Agrobacterium and Paenibacillus species. Based on symbiotic properties with the legume hosts Glycyrrhiza uralensis and Glycyrrhiza glabra, we divided the nodulating species into true and sporadic symbionts. Five distinct Mesorhizobium groups represented true symbionts of the host plants, the majority of strains inducing N2-fixing nodules. Sporadic symbionts consisted of either species with infrequent occurrence (Rhizobium galegae, Rhizobium leguminosarum) or species with weak (Sinorhizobium meliloti, Rhizobium gallicum) or no N2 fixation ability (Rhizobium giardinii, Rhizobium cellulosilyticum, Phyllobacterium sp.). Multivariate analyses revealed that the host plant species and geographic location explained only a small part (14.4%) of the total variation in bacterial AFLP patterns, with the host plant explaining slightly more (9.9%) than geography (6.9%). However, strains isolated from G. glabra were clearly separated from those from G. uralensis, and strains obtained from central China were well separated from those originating from Xinjiang in the northwest, indicating both host preference and regional endemism.