Revealing the underlying mechanisms mediated by endophytic actinobacteria to enhance the rhizobia - chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) symbiosis

Ting Xu, Q. A. Tuan Vo, Steve J. Barnett, Ross A. Ballard, Yonghua Zhu, Christopher M. M. Franco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The effects of endophytic actinobacterial strains, Microbispora sp. CP56, Actinomadura sp. CP84B, Streptomyces spp. CP200B and CP21A, on the chickpea-Mesorhizobium symbiosis, were investigated in planta, with the aim of revealing the underlying mechanisms of action. Methods: The actinobacterial endophytes were co-inoculated with Mesorhizobium ciceri onto chickpea seedlings to study the effect on plant growth parameters, nodulation development and grain yield. The role of actinobacterial exudates on rhizobial growth was investigated, as was the role of root exudates of actinobacteria-colonized plants on the expression of rhizobial nod factors and biofilm formation. Changes in expression of plant flavonoids and bacterial N-fixation genes resulting from actinobacterial co-inoculation were assessed using qPCR. Results: Application of actinobacterial endophytes, together with M. ciceri, showed growth promotion of chickpea with an increase in root nodule number and weight. Enhanced nodulation was accompanied by increases in total plant nitrogen, larger total plant weight and a 2–3-fold increase in grain yield. Factors associated with this tripartite symbiosis are promotion of rhizobial growth, earlier nodule formation, increased secondary root formation, up-regulated expression of genes related to flavonoid synthesis and nif genes. In addition, exudates of chickpea roots colonised with actinobacteria increased nodulation-related biological processes - rhizobial chemotaxis, biofilm formation and nod gene expression. Conclusion: These endophytic actinobacteria positively affect many aspects of the chickpea-Mesorhizobium symbiosis resulting in increases in grain yield. Similar improvements recorded in chickpea growing in potted field soils, shows the potential to enhance chickpea production in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-318
Number of pages20
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Early online date10 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Chickpea
  • Endophytic actinobacteria
  • Mesorhizobium ciceri
  • Nodulation, mechanisms


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