A combined genetic and transcriptome analysis was performed to study the molecular basis of the arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) symbiosis. By testing the AM phenotype of nodulation-impaired mutants and complementation analysis, we defined seven Lotus japonicus common symbiosis genes (SYMRK, CASTOR, POLLUX, SYM3, SYM6, SYM15, and SYM24) that are required for both fungal and bacterial entry into root epidermal or cortical cells. To describe the phenotype of these mutants at the molecular level, we screened for differentiating transcriptional responses of mutant and wild-type roots by large-scale gene expression profiling using cDNA-amplified fragment length polymorphism. Two percent of root transcripts was found to increase in abundance during AM development, from which a set of AM-regulated marker genes was established. A Ser-protease (SbtS) and a Cys-protease (CysS) were also activated during root nodule development. AM-induced transcriptional activation was abolished in roots carrying mutations in common symbiosis genes, suggesting a central position of these genes in a pathway leading to the transcriptional activation of downstream genes. By contrast, AM fungus-induced gene repression appeared to be unaffected in mutant backgrounds, which indicates the presence of additional independent signaling pathways.
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