Rhizobium lipo-chitooligosaccharide nodulation factors: signaling molecules mediating recognition and morphogenesis

Annu Rev Biochem. 1996;65:503-35. doi: 10.1146/annurev.bi.65.070196.002443.


Rhizobia elicit on their specific leguminous hosts the formation of new organs, called nodules, in which they fix nitrogen. The rhizobial nodulation genes specify the synthesis of lipo-chitooligosaccharide signals, the Nod factors (NFs). Each rhizobial species has a characteristic set of nodulation genes that specifies the length of the chitooligosaccharide backbone and the type of substitutions at both ends of the molecule, thus making the NFs specific for a given plant host. At extremely low concentrations, purified NFs are capable of eliciting on homologous legume hosts many of the plant developmental responses characteristic of the bacteria themselves, including cell divisions, and the triggering of a plant organogenic program. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the biosynthesis, structure, and function of this new class of signaling molecules. Finally we discuss the possibility that these signals could be part of a new family of plant lipo-chitooligosaccharide growth regulators.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nitrogen Fixation* / genetics
  • Plant Growth Regulators / metabolism
  • Protein Sorting Signals / biosynthesis
  • Protein Sorting Signals / chemistry
  • Protein Sorting Signals / metabolism*
  • Rhizobium / genetics
  • Rhizobium / metabolism*


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Protein Sorting Signals