Legume root nodules originate from differentiated cortical cells that reenter the cell cycle and form organ primordia. We show that perception of the phytohormone cytokinin is a key element in this switch. Mutation of a Lotus japonicus cytokinin receptor gene leads to spontaneous development of root nodules in the absence of rhizobia or rhizobial signal molecules. The mutant histidine kinase receptor has cytokinin-independent activity and activates an Escherichia coli two-component phosphorelay system in vivo. Mutant analysis shows that cytokinin signaling is required for cell divisions that initiate nodule development and defines an autoregulated process where cytokinin induction of nodule stem cells is controlled by shoots.
ASJC Scopus subject areas