Polyploidy is a major genetic driver of ecological and evolutionary processes in plants, yet its effects on plant interactions with mutualistic microbes remain unresolved. The legume–rhizobium symbiosis regulates global nutrient cycles and plays a role in the diversification of legume species. In this mutualism, rhizobia bacteria fix nitrogen in exchange for carbon provided by legume hosts. This exchange occurs inside root nodules, which house bacterial cells and represent the interface of legume–rhizobium interactions. Although polyploidy may directly impact the legume–rhizobium mutualism, no studies have explored how it alters the internal structure of nodules.
We created synthetic autotetraploids using
Autotetraploid plants produced larger nodules with larger nitrogen fixation zones than diploids for both strains of rhizobia, although the significance of these differences was limited by power. Neotetraploid
This study sheds light on how polyploidy directly affects a plant–bacterium mutualism and uncovers novel mechanisms. Changes in plant–microbe interactions that directly result from polyploidy likely contribute to the increased ability of polyploid legumes to establish in diverse environments.