Plants evolved lysine motif (LysM) receptors to recognize and parse microbial elicitors and drive intracellular signaling to limit or facilitate microbial colonization. We investigated how chitin and nodulation (Nod) factor receptors of Lotus japonicus initiate differential signaling of immunity or root nodule symbiosis. Two motifs in the LysM1 domains of these receptors determine specific recognition of ligands and discriminate between their in planta functions. These motifs define the ligand-binding site and make up the most structurally divergent regions in cognate Nod factor receptors. An adjacent motif modulates the specificity for Nod factor recognition and determines the selection of compatible rhizobial symbionts in legumes. We also identified how binding specificities in LysM receptors can be altered to facilitate Nod factor recognition and signaling from a chitin receptor, advancing the prospects of engineering rhizobial symbiosis into nonlegumes.
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