Plants adapted to grow in nutrient-poor soils do so in collaboration with microbes that trade nutrients for plant-produced sugars, but the precise nature of these relationships has been unclear. Two papers in 27 June Nature, describe the proteins that mediates a plant's ability to communicate to and engage in symbiotic relationships with bacteria.

Silke Stracke and colleagues at The Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre, Norwich, cloned orthologous SYMRK ('symbiosis receptor-like kinase') genes from Lotus and pea. They found that SYMRK is required for a symbiotic signal transduction pathway leading from the perception of microbial signal molecules to rapid symbiosis related gene activation (Nature 2002, 417:959-962).

In the second paper, Gabriella Endre and colleagues at Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences cloned a Medicago sativa gene, which is observed in the symbiotic root nodule development. The gene codes for the 'nodulation receptor kinase' (NORK)...

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