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Background: The ability of chickpea to obtain sufficient nitrogen via its symbiotic relationship with Mesorhizobium ciceri is of critical importance in supporting growth and grain production. A number of factors can affect this symbiotic relationship including abiotic conditions, plant genotype, and disruptions to host signalling/perception networks. In order to support improved nodule formation in chickpea, we investigated how plant genotype and soil nutrient availability affect chickpea nodule formation and nitrogen fixation. Further, using transcriptomic profiling, we sought to identify gene expression patterns that characterize highly nodulated genotypes. Results: A study involving six chickpea varieties demonstrated large genotype by soil nitrogen interaction effects on nodulation and further identified agronomic traits of genotypes (such as shoot weight) associated with high nodulation. We broadened our scope to consider 29 varieties and breeding lines to examine the relationship between soilborne disease resistance and the number of nodules developed and real-time nitrogen fixation. Results of this larger study supported the earlier genotype specific findings, however, disease resistance did not explain differences in nodulation across genotypes. Transcriptional profiling of six chickpea genotypes indicates that genes associated with signalling, N transport and cellular localization, as opposed to genes associated with the classical nodulation pathway, are more likely to predict whether a given genotype will exhibit high levels of nodule formation. Conclusions: This research identified a number of key abiotic and genetic factors affecting chickpea nodule development and nitrogen fixation. These findings indicate that an improved understanding of genotype-specific factors affecting chickpea nodule induction and function are key research areas necessary to improving the benefits of rhizobial symbiosis in chickpea.
Plett, K. L., Bithell, S. L., Dando, A., & Plett, J. M. (2021). Chickpea shows genotype-specific nodulation responses across soil nitrogen environment and root disease resistance categories. BMC Plant Biology, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-021-03102-6