Plant and Soil

, Volume 266, Issue 1–2, pp 205–230 | Cite as

Root-based N2-fixing symbioses: Legumes, actinorhizal plants, Parasponia sp. and cycads

  • J. Kevin Vessey
  • Katharina Pawlowski
  • Birgitta Bergman


In the mutualistic symbioses between legumes and rhizobia, actinorhizal plants and Frankia, Parasponia sp. and rhizobia, and cycads and cyanobacteria, the N2-fixing microsymbionts exist in specialized structures (nodules or cyanobacterial zones) within the roots of their host plants. Despite the phylogenetic diversity among both the hosts and the microsymbionts of these symbioses, certain developmental and physiological imperatives must be met for successful mutualisms. In this review, phylogenetic and ecological aspects of the four symbioses are first addressed, and then the symbioses are contrasted and compared in regard to infection and symbio-organ development, supply of carbon to the microsymbionts, regulation of O2 flux to the microsymbionts, and transfer of fixed-N to the hosts. Although similarities exist in the genetics, development, and functioning of the symbioses, it is evident that there is great diversity in many aspects of these root-based N2-fixing symbioses. Each symbiosis can be admired for the elegant means by which the host plant and microsymbiont integrate to form the mutualistic relationships so important to the functioning of the biosphere.

Key words

actinorhizal plants coralloid roots cyanobacteria cycads Frankia legume mutualism N2 fixation nod genes nif genes nodulation Nostoc Parasponia Rhizobium symbioses 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Kevin Vessey
    • 1
  • Katharina Pawlowski
    • 2
  • Birgitta Bergman
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant ScienceUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Plant Biochemistry, Albrecht von Haller Institute for Plant SciencesGöttingen UniversityGöttingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of BotanyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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