Alfalfa nodules elicited by a flavodoxin-overexpressing Ensifer meliloti strain display nitrogen-fixing activity with enhanced tolerance to salinity stress

Abstract

Nitrogen fixation by legumes is very sensitive to salinity stress, which can severely reduce the productivity of legume crops and their soil-enriching capacity. Salinity is known to cause oxidative stress in the nodule by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS). Flavodoxins are involved in the response to oxidative stress in bacteria and cyanobacteria. Prevention of ROS production by flavodoxin overexpression in bacteroids might lead to a protective effect on nodule functioning under salinity stress. Tolerance to salinity stress was evaluated in alfalfa nodules elicited by an Ensifer meliloti strain that overexpressed a cyanobacterial flavodoxin compared with nodules produced by the wild-type bacteria. Nitrogen fixation, antioxidant and carbon metabolism enzyme activities were determined. The decline in nitrogenase activity associated to salinity stress was significantly less in flavodoxin-expressing than in wild-type nodules. We detected small but significant changes in nodule antioxidant metabolism involving the ascorbate–glutathione cycle enzymes and metabolites, as well as differences in activity of the carbon metabolism enzyme sucrose synthase, and an atypical starch accumulation pattern in flavodoxin-containing nodules. Salt-induced structural and ultrastructural alterations were examined in detail in alfalfa wild-type nodules by light and electron microscopy and compared to flavodoxin-containing nodules. Flavodoxin reduced salt-induced structural damage, which primarily affected young infected tissues and not fully differentiated bacteroids. The results indicate that overexpression of flavodoxin in bacteroids has a protective effect on the function and structure of alfalfa nodules subjected to salinity stress conditions. Putative protection mechanisms are discussed.

DOI: 10.1007/s00425-012-1725-8

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Cite this paper

@article{Redondo2012AlfalfaNE, title={Alfalfa nodules elicited by a flavodoxin-overexpressing Ensifer meliloti strain display nitrogen-fixing activity with enhanced tolerance to salinity stress}, author={Francisco J. Redondo and Teodoro Coba de la Pe{\~n}a and Matthew M. Lucas and Jos{\'e} J. Pueyo}, journal={Planta}, year={2012}, volume={236}, pages={1687-1700} }