Effects of drought stress on legume symbiotic nitrogen fixation: Physiological mechanisms uri icon


  • Drought stress is one of the major factors affecting nitrogen fixation by legume-rhizobium symbiosis. Several mechanisms have been previously reported to be involved in the physiological response of symbiotic nitrogen fixation to drought stress, i.e. carbon shortage and nodule carbon metabolism, oxygen limitation, and feedback regulation by the accumulation of N fixation products. The carbon shortage hypothesis was previously investigated by studying the combined effects of CO2 enrichment and water deficits on nodulation and N2 fixation in soybean. Under drought, in a genotype with drought tolerant N2 fixation, approximately four times the amount of 14C was allocated to nodules compared to a drought sensitive genotype. It was found that an important effect of CO2 enrichment of soybean under drought was an enhancement of photo assimilation, an increased partitioning of carbon to nodules, whose main effect was to sustain nodule growth, which helped sustain N2 rates under soil water deficits. The interaction of nodule permeability to O2 and drought stress with N2 fixation was examined in soybean nodules and led to the overall conclusion that O2 limitation seems to be involved only in the initial stages of water deficit stresses in decreasing nodule activity. The involvement of ureides in the drought response of N2 fixation was initially suspected by an increased ureide concentration in shoots and nodules under drought leading to a negative feedback response between ureides and nodule activity. Direct evidence for inhibition of nitrogenase activity by its products, ureides and amides, supported this hypothesis. The overall conclusion was that all three physiological mechanisms are important in understanding the regulation of N2 fixation and its response of to soil drying

publication date

  • 2003