Expression and Variation of the Genes Involved in Rhizobium Nodulation in Red Clover

Randy D. Dinkins, Julie A. Hancock, Derek M. Bickhart, Michael L. Sullivan, Hongyan Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) is an important forage crop and serves as a major contributor of nitrogen input in pasture settings because of its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. During the legume-rhizobial symbiosis, the host plant undergoes a large number of gene expression changes, leading to development of root nodules that house the rhizobium bacteria as they are converted into nitrogen-fixing bacteroids. Many of the genes involved in symbiosis are conserved across legume species, while others are species-specific with little or no homology across species and likely regulate the specific plant genotype/symbiont strain interactions. Red clover has not been widely used for studying symbiotic nitrogen fixation, primarily due to its outcrossing nature, making genetic analysis rather complicated. With the addition of recent annotated genomic resources and use of RNA-seq tools, we annotated and characterized a number of genes that are expressed only in nodule forming roots. These genes include those encoding nodule-specific cysteine rich peptides (NCRs) and nodule-specific Polycystin-1, Lipoxygenase, Alpha toxic (PLAT) domain proteins (NPDs). Our results show that red clover encodes one of the highest number of NCRs and ATS3-like/NPDs, which are postulated to increase nitrogen fixation efficiency, in the Inverted-Repeat Lacking Clade (IRLC) of legumes. Knowledge of the variation and expression of these genes in red clover will provide more insights into the function of these genes in regulating legume-rhizobial symbiosis and aid in breeding of red clover genotypes with increased nitrogen fixation efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2888
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2022

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  • forage legumes
  • gene expression
  • nitrogen fixation
  • nodulation
  • nodule-specific cysteine rich peptides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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