Perception of lipo-chitooligosaccharides by the bioenergy crop Populus

Plant Signal Behav. 2021 Jun 3;16(6):1903758. doi: 10.1080/15592324.2021.1903758. Epub 2021 Apr 2.


Populus sp. is a developing feedstock for second-generation biofuel production. To ensure its success as a sustainable biofuel source, it is essential to capitalize on the ability of Populus sp. to associate with beneficial plant-associated microbes (e.g., mycorrhizal fungi) and engineer Populus sp. to associate with non-native symbionts (e.g., rhizobia). Here, we review recent research into the molecular mechanisms that control ectomycorrhizal associations in Populus sp. with particular emphasis on the discovery that ectomycorrhizal fungi produce lipochitooligosaccharides capable of activating the common symbiosis pathway. We also present new evidence that lipo-chitooligosaccharides produced by both ectomycorrhizal fungi and various species of rhizobia that do not associate with Populus sp. can induce nuclear calcium spiking in the roots of Populus sp. Thus, we argue Populus sp. already possesses the molecular machinery necessary for perceiving rhizobia, and the next step in engineering symbiosis with rhizobia should be focused on inducing bacterial accommodation and nodule organogenesis. The gene Nodule INception is central to these processes, and several putative orthologs are present in Populus sp. Manipulating the promoters of these genes to match that of plants in the nitrogen-fixing clade may be sufficient to introduce nodulation in Populus sp.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biofuels
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism
  • Crops, Agricultural / microbiology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Mycorrhizae / physiology*
  • Populus / metabolism*
  • Populus / microbiology*
  • Rhizobium / physiology*
  • Root Nodules, Plant / metabolism
  • Root Nodules, Plant / microbiology*
  • Symbiosis / physiology*


  • Biofuels
  • Lipopolysaccharides

Grant support

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation [2010789] and U.S. Department of Energy [DE-SC0018247].