Legumes have the unique ability to undergo symbiotic associations with bacteria belonging to the Rhizobiaceaefamily. These rhizobacteria secret signaling molecules (Nod Factors) that trigger physiological and morphological plant responses. In the course of this interaction, rhizobia invade the host root leading to the formation of a novel symbiotic plant organ: the root nodule. Rhizobia remain surrounded by a plant-derived plasma membrane from the very first moment of host invasion until age-dependent degradation of the symbiotically active bacteroids. This membrane serves as an essential interface for plant-microbe signal transduction and is certainly one of the key determinants for the success of the association.
Using DNA microarrays, a remorin gene (SYMREM1) that is strongly induced in root nodules of Lotus japonicus and Medicago truncatula (Colebatch et al., 2004; El Yahyaoui et al., 2004) has been identified. This isoform belongs to the subgroup II of the remorin family that is restricted to legumes (Raffaele et al., 2007). While all other members of this multi-gene family are ubiquitiously expressed in all plant organs, only SYMREM1 genes exhibit this unique expression signature. The protein itself localizes to infection thread membranes surrounding the bacteria inside of the root nodule and to symbiosome membranes encapsulating the differentiated bacteroids throughout the symbiotic interaction. Interestingly SYMREM1 is able to interact with at least the three receptor-like kinases (RLKs) NFP, LYK3 and DMI2 that are essential for root nodule symbiosis. Analogies to molecular scaffolds from mammalian cells such as the ability to interact with multiple signalling proteins, the formation of high-order oligomers and the strict localization to membrane rafts led to the hypothesis that SYMREM1 acts as a signalling mediator during rhizobial infection (Lefebvre et al., 2010).
Recent data suggest that the RLK-SYMREM1 interaction is mainly mediated by the conserved C-terminal domain. However, results from FLIM-FRET and in vitro kinase assay experiments clearly indicate that the intrinsically disordered N-terminal region contributes to this interaction and can be phosphorylated by the kinase domains (Tóth et al., 2012).
Interestingly, the second member of this subgroup (SYMREM2), has been shown to be induced during the formation of arbuscular mycorrhiza in Lotus japonicus (Kistner et al., 2005). This symbiotic interaction, that can be found on about 80% of all land plants, is especially interesting since only few signalling components of this fungal-plant interaction have been described so far (reviewed in Parniske, 2008).
We are currently functionally characterising this protein and screen for interacting partners.