Towards a characterisation of the wild legume bitter vetch (Lathyrus linifolius L. (Reichard) Bässler): heteromorphic seed germination, root nodule structure and N-fixing rhizobial symbionts

E. Dello Jacovo, T. A. Valentine, M. Maluk, P. Toorop, L. Lopez del Egido, N. Frachon, G. Kenicer, L. Park, M. Goff, V. A. Ferro, C. Bonomi, E. K. James, P. P. M. Iannetta

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Lathyrus linifolius L. (Reichard) Bässler (bitter vetch) is a fabaceous nitrogen (N) fixing species. A coloniser of low nutrient (N) soils it supports biodiversity such as key moth and butterfly species and its roots are known for their organoleptic and claimed therapeutic properties. Thus, the species has high potential for restoration, conservation, novel cropping and as model species. The latter owing to its genetic synteny with important pulse crops. However, regeneration and functional attributes of L. linifolius remain to be characterised. Seeds of L. linifolius were characterised using physical, colourimetric and chemical data. Ultrastructural and functional characterisation of the N fixing root nodules included immunolabelling with nifH-protein antibodies (recognising the N fixing enzyme, nitrogenase). Endosymbiotic bacteria were isolated from the root nodules and characterised phylogenetically using 16S rRNA, nodA and nodD gene sequeneces. L. linifolius yielded hetermorphic seeds of distinct colour classes: green and brown. Seed morphotypes had similar carbon:N ratios and were equally germinable (ca. 90%) after scarification at differing optimal temperatures (16 and 20°C, respectively). Brown seeds were larger and comprised a larger proportion of the seed batch (69%). L. linifolius root nodules appeared indeterminate in structure, effective (capable of fixing atmospheric N) and accommodated strains with high similarity to Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae. The findings and rhizobial isolates have potential application for ecological restoration and horticulture using native seeds. Also, the data and rhizobial resources have potential application in comparative and functional studies with related and socio-economically important crops such as Pisum, Lens and Vicia.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Biology
Early online date18 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2018


  • bitter vetch
  • Lathyrus linifolius L.
  • legume root noodles
  • Rhizobium
  • seed germination

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