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Nitrogenase Inhibition in Nodules from Pea Plants Grown Under Salt Stress Occurs at the Physiological Level and can be Alleviated by B and Ca

  • Bolaños, Luis1
  • Martín, Marta1
  • El-Hamdaoui, Abdelaziz1
  • Rivilla, Rafael1
  • Bonilla, Ildefonso1
  • 1 Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Madrid, 28049, Spain , Madrid (Spain)
Published Article
Plant and Soil
Kluwer Academic Publishers
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2006
DOI: 10.1007/s11104-005-2853-8
Springer Nature


In order to shed new light on the mechanisms of salt-mediated symbiotic N2-fixation inhibition, the effect of salt stress (75 mM) on N2-fixation in pea root nodules induced by R. leguminosarum was studied at the gene expression, protein production and enzymatic activity levels. Acetylene reduction assays for nitrogenase activity showed no activity in salt-stressed plants. To know whether salt inhibits N2-fixing activity at a molecular or at a physiological level, expression of the nifH gene, encoding the nitrogenase reductase component of the nitrogenase enzyme was analyzed by RT-PCR analysis of total RNA extracted from nodulated roots. The nifH messenger RNA was present both in plants grown in the presence and absence of salt, although a reduction was observed in salt-stressed plants. Similar results were obtained for the immunodetection of the nitrogenase reductase protein in Western-blot assays, indicating that nitrogen fixation failed mainly at physiological level. Given that nutrient imbalance is a typical effect of salt stress in plants and that Fe is a prosthetic component of nitrogenase reductase and other proteins required by symbiotic N2-fixation, as leghemoglobin, plants were analyzed for Fe contents by atomic absorption and the results confirmed that Fe levels were severely reduced in nodules developed in salt-stressed plants. In a previous papers (El-Hamdaoui et al., 2003b), we have shown that supplementing inoculated legumes with boron (B) and calcium (Ca) prevents nitrogen fixation decline under saline conditions stress. Analysis of salt-stressed nodules fed with extra B and Ca indicated that Fe content and nitrogenase activity was similar to that of non-stressed plants. These results indicate a linkage between Fe deprivation and salt-mediated failure of nitrogen fixation, which is prevented by B and Ca leading to increase of salt tolerance.

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