Recent data on the plant control of early stages of mutually beneficial (mutualistic) symbioses of legumes, the mechanisms of perception and transmission of the microsymbiont's molecular signals in the macrosymbiont's cells, and induction of the genetic programs of the development of symbiotic compartments and organs of the plant are summarized. It is demonstrated that the genetic system of the plant controlling the development of nitrogen-fixing symbiosis of legumes (symbiotic root nodules), which emerged 70-80 Ma ago, has undoubtedly evolved on the basis of the genetic system controlling the development of the symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (which emerged 400-500 Ma ago). Interactions between genes and between gene products, as well as exchange of molecular signals, form the basis of mutually beneficial (mutualistic) plant-bacterium interactions. Even in the case of a highly specific nitrogen-fixing symbiosis of legumes (symbiotic nodules), the receptors perceiving the signal from root-nodule bacteria may function in different ways. The development of arbuscular mycorrhiza and nitrogen-fixing symbiosis in legumes is a multistep process involving hundreds of genes of both the macro- and microsymbionts. For the symbioses to develop successfully, these genes should act in a coordinated way in the newly formed superorganismal system. Further studies are necessary to shed light onto the complexity of the plant genetic control of the development of mutualistic symbioses in legumes and provide information required for improving their functions in adaptive plant-breeding systems.
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