Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens USDA110 nodulation of Aeschynomene afraspera is associated with atypical terminal bacteroid differentiation and suboptimal symbiotic efficiency
Legume plants can form root organs called nodules where they house intracellular symbiotic rhizobium bacteria. Within nodule cells, rhizobia differentiate into bacteroids, which fix nitrogen for the benefit of the plant. Depending on the combination of host plants and rhizobial strains, the output of rhizobium-legume interactions is varying from non-fixing associations to symbioses that are highly beneficial for the plant. Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens USDA110 was isolated as a soybean symbiont
... but it can also establish a functional symbiotic interaction with Aeschynomene afraspera. In contrast to soybean, A. afraspera triggers terminal bacteroid differentiation, a process involving bacterial cell elongation, polyploidy and membrane permeability leading to loss of bacterial viability while plants increase their symbiotic benefit. A combination of plant metabolomics, bacterial proteomics and transcriptomics along with cytological analyses was used to study the physiology of USDA110 bacteroids in these two host plants. We show that USDA110 establish a poorly efficient symbiosis with A. afraspera, despite the full activation of the bacterial symbiotic program. We found molecular signatures of high level of stress in A. afraspera bacteroids whereas those of terminal bacteroid differentiation were only partially activated. Finally, we show that in A. afraspera, USDA110 bacteroids undergo an atypical terminal differentiation hallmarked by the disconnection of the canonical features of this process. This study pinpoints how a rhizobium strain can adapt its physiology to a new host and cope with terminal differentiation when it did not co-evolve with such a host.