60Ma of legume nodulation. What's new? What's changing?

Janet I. Sprent

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    72 Citations (Scopus)


    Current evidence suggests that legumes evolved about 60 million years ago. Genetic material for nodulation was recruited from existing DNA, often following gene duplication. The initial process of infection probably did not involve either root hairs or infection threads. From this initial event, two branched pathways of nodule developmental processes evolved, one involving and one not involving the development of infection threads to 'escort' bacteria to young nodule cells. Extant legumes have a wide range of nodule structures and at least 25% of them do not have infection threads. The latter have uniform infected tissue whereas those that have infection threads have infected cells interspersed with uninfected (interstitial) cells. Each type of nodule may develop indeterminately, with an apical meristem, or show determinate growth. These nodule structures are host determined and are largely congruent with taxonomic position. In addition to variation on the plant side, the last 10 years have seen the recognition of many new types of 'rhizobia', bacteria that can induce nodulation and fix nitrogen. It is not yet possible to fit these into the emerging pattern of nodule evolution.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1081-1084
    Number of pages4
    JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • Bacteria
    • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
    • Biological Evolution
    • Fabaceae
    • Morphogenesis
    • Root Nodules, Plant
    • Symbiosis


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