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The role of nodule cysteine-rich (NCR) peptides during the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis is complex. They are more than just antimicrobial compounds used by the host to control bacterial growth, as previously thought.
Symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) aids the growth of many legume species, but may also restrict their ability to colonize new regions lacking suitable rhizobia. Here, the authors show that symbiotic legumes are indeed less likely to become established in new regions than their non-symbiotic relatives.
The Lotus japonicus LysM receptor kinase EPR3 perceives rhizobial exopolysaccharides to initiate infection of the root epidermis. Here the authors show that EPR3 also mediates infection thread progression in the root cortex and show that key transcription factors that regulate symbiosis specify the expression of Epr3.
The fields of ecology and evolutionary biology are implicitly connected. A new theory that links the global distribution and evolution of nitrogen-fixing trees uses the universal language of mathematics to make this connection more explicit.