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Life at soybean’s roots

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It's a symbiotic relationship that works. A microbe lives on the roots of the soybean plant, providing the plant with the nitrogen it needs to grow. In return, the microbe receives a steady diet of carbon and shelter from a rough-and-tumble world.

This natural partnership is good for farmers. The bacterium makes the soybean more productive—and without the use of chemical fertilizers, which can be expensive and contaminate groundwater.

The bacterium B. japonicum infects the roots of soybeans and attaches to root hairs.

Japanese scientists have now sequenced the genome of the microbe, Bradyrhizobium japonicum. The genome sequence is being used to study how the bacterium interacts with the plant and could lead to modified organisms that produce even greater yields of soybeans.

Root nodules on soybean plant.


Mature soybeans.


For more information on the B. japonicum genome, visit RhizoBase here.

Birgit Reinert

Kaneko, T. et al. Complete genomic sequence of nitrogen-fixing symbiotic bacterium Bradyrhizobium japonicum USDA110. DNA Res 9, 189-197 (December 31, 2002).

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