Legumes form endosymbiotic interaction with host compatible rhizobia, resulting in the development of nitrogen-fixing root nodules. Within symbiotic nodules, rhizobia are intracellularly accommodated in plant-derived membrane compartments, termed symbiosomes. In mature nodule, the massively colonized cells tolerate the existence of rhizobia without manifestation of visible defense responses, indicating the suppression of plant immunity in the nodule in the favur of the symbiotic partner. Medicago truncatula DNF2 (defective in nitrogen fixation 2) and NAD1 (nodules with activated defense 1) genes are essential for the control of plant defense during the colonization of the nitrogen-fixing nodule and are required for bacteroid persistence. The previously identified nodule-specific NAD1 gene encodes a protein of unknown function. Herein, we present the analysis of novel NAD1 mutant alleles to better understand the function of NAD1 in the repression of immune responses in symbiotic nodules. By exploiting the advantage of plant double and rhizobial mutants defective in establishing nitrogen-fixing symbiotic interaction, we show that NAD1 functions following the release of rhizobia from the infection threads and colonization of nodule cells. The suppression of plant defense is self-dependent of the differentiation status of the rhizobia. The corresponding phenotype of nad1 and dnf2 mutants and the similarity in the induction of defense-associated genes in both mutants suggest that NAD1 and DNF2 operate close together in the same pathway controlling defense responses in symbiotic nodules.
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