Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 115-130

First online:

Nitrogen-fixing symbiosis between photosynthetic bacteria and legumes

  • Eric GiraudAffiliated withLaboratoire des Symbioses Tropicales et Metditerraneennes, IRD, INRA, AGRO-M, CIRAD, TA10/J, Campus International de Baillarguet
  • , Darrell FleischmanAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Wright State University

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Rhizobia having photosynthetic systems form nitrogen-fixing nodules on the stem and/or root of some species of the legumes Aeschynomene and Lotononis. This review is focused on the recent knowledge about the physiology, genetics and role of the photosystem in these bacteria. Photosynthetic electron transport seems to involve reaction centers, soluble cytochrome c2 and cytochrome bc1. Anaerobically, the electron transport system becomes over-reduced. The photosynthesis genes have been partially characterized; their organization is classical but their regulation is unusual as it is activated by far-red light via a bacteriophytochrome. This original mechanism of regulation seems well adapted to promote photosynthesis during stem symbiosis. Photosynthesis plays a major role in the efficiency of stem nodulation. It is also observed that infrared light stimulates nitrogen fixation in nodules containing photosynthetic bacteroids, suggesting that photosynthesis may additionally provides energy for nitrogen fixation, allowing for more efficient plant growth. Other aspects of these bacteria are discussed, in particular their taxonomic position and nodulation ability, the role of carotenoids and the potential for application of photosynthetic rhizobia in rice culture.

Aerobic photosynthetic bacteria Aeschynomene Bacteriophytochrome Bradyrhizobium Carotenoid biosynthesis Methylobacterium Nitrogen fixation Photosynthesis gene cluster Photosynthesis regulation Stem nodule symbiosis