Gene Expression during Development of Nitrogen-Fixing Root Nodules

  • Donald Grierson
  • Simon N. Covey
Part of the Tertiary Level Biology book series (TLB)


One factor known to limit the growth of higher plants is the availability of nitrogen in the soil. Gaseous nitrogen comprises four-fifths of the Earth’s atmosphere, but the ability to utilize directly this essential component of many biological molecules is restricted to a few groups of prokaryotic organisms. Legume plant species have overcome this limitation to productivity by virtue of a highly organized association developed with nitrogen-fixing bacteria of the family Rhizobiaceae. These soil-borne organisms are stimulated to invade the roots of susceptible plants where they become intracellular ‘organelles’, called bacteroids, which convert atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia for assimilation by the plant. The plant develops specialized organs, the root nodules, to house the Rhizobium bacteroids and provides the appropriate environment and nutrients to support nitrogen fixation. In agronomic terms, the potential benefit of nitrogen-fixing organisms is enormous since it is estimated that they fix at least 2 x 108 tonnes of nitrogen per year.


Nitrogen Fixation Root Hair Glutamine Synthetase Plant Molecular Biology Nodule Development 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald Grierson
    • 1
  • Simon N. Covey
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and Environmental ScienceUniversity of NottinghamUK
  2. 2.John Innes Institute, AFRC Institute of Plant Science ResearchNorwichUK

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