Stable Fluorescent and Enzymatic Tagging of Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens to Analyze Host-Plant Infection and Colonization

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2015 Sep;28(9):959-67. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-03-15-0054-TA. Epub 2015 Aug 20.


Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens USDA 110 (formerly named Bradyrhizobium japonicum) can fix dinitrogen when living as an endosymbiont in root nodules of soybean and some other legumes. Formation of a functional symbiosis relies on a defined developmental program mediated by controlled gene expression in both symbiotic partners. In contrast to other well-studied Rhizobium-legume model systems that have been thoroughly examined by means of genetically tagged strains, analysis of B. diazoefficiens host infection has been impaired due to the lack of suitable tagging systems. Here, we describe the construction of B. diazoefficiens strains constitutively expressing single-copy genes for fluorescent proteins (eBFP2, mTurquoise2, GFP+, sYFP2, mCherry, HcRed) and enzymes (GusA, LacZ). For stable inheritance, the constructs were recombined into the chromosome. Effectiveness and versatility of the tagged strains was demonstrated in plant infection assays. (i) The infection process was followed from root-hair attachment to colonization of nodule cells with epifluorescent microscopy. (ii) Monitoring mixed infections with two strains producing different fluorescent proteins allowed rapid analysis of nodule occupancy and revealed that the majority of nodules contained clonal populations. (iii) Microscopic analysis of nodules induced by fluorescent strains provided evidence for host-dependent control of B. diazoefficiens bacteroid morphology in nodules of Aeschynomene afraspera and Arachis hypogaea (peanut), as deduced from their altered morphology compared with bacteroids in soybean nodules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bradyrhizobium / enzymology*
  • Bradyrhizobium / genetics
  • Bradyrhizobium / metabolism
  • DNA, Recombinant
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / physiology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / microbiology
  • Soybeans / microbiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Recombinant
  • Luminescent Proteins