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CRISPR/Cas9 knockout of leghemoglobin genes in Lotus japonicus uncovers their synergistic roles in symbiotic nitrogen fixation

Wang, Longlong, Rubio, Maria Carmen, Xin, Xian, Zhang, Baoli, Fan, Qiuling, Wang, Qiang, Ning, Guogui, Becana, Manuel, Duanmu, Deqiang
Thenew phytologist 2019 v.224 no.2 pp. 818-832
CRISPR-Cas systems, Lotus corniculatus var. japonicus, NADP (coenzyme), biosynthesis, carbon, electron microscopy, gene editing, gene expression, genes, heme, hydrogen peroxide, leghemoglobin, legumes, messenger RNA, mitochondria, mutants, nitrogen fixation, nitrogen metabolism, oxygen, phenotype, poly-3-hydroxybutyrate, proteinases, sequence analysis, superoxide anion, superoxide dismutase, transcription factors
Legume nodules contain high concentrations of leghemoglobins (Lbs) encoded by several genes. The reason for this multiplicity is unknown. CRISPR/Cas9 technology was used to generate stable mutants of the three Lbs of Lotus japonicus. The phenotypes were characterized at the physiological, biochemical and molecular levels. Nodules of the triple mutants were examined by electron microscopy and subjected to RNA‐sequencing (RNA‐seq) analysis. Complementation studies revealed that Lbs function synergistically to maintain optimal N₂ fixation. The nodules of the triple mutants overproduced superoxide radicals and hydrogen peroxide, which was probably linked to activation of NADPH oxidases and changes in superoxide dismutase isoforms expression. The mutant nodules showed major ultrastructural alterations, including vacuolization, accumulation of poly‐β‐hydroxybutyrate and disruption of mitochondria. RNA‐seq of c. 20 000 genes revealed significant changes in expression of carbon and nitrogen metabolism genes, transcription factors, and proteinases. Lb‐deficient nodules had c. 30–50‐fold less heme but similar transcript levels of heme biosynthetic genes, suggesting a post‐translational regulatory mechanism of heme synthesis. We conclude that Lbs act additively in nodules and that the lack of Lbs results in early nodule senescence. Our observations also provide insight into the reprogramming of the gene expression network associated with Lb deficiency, probably as a result of uncontrolled intracellular free O₂ concentration.