The Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis: Origin and Evolution of a Beneficial Plant Infection

Corradi, Nicolas, and Paola Bonfante. “The arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis: origin and evolution of a beneficial plant infection.” PLoS pathogens 8, no. 4 (2012): e1002600.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) represent a monophyletic fungal lineage (Glomeromycota ) that benefits terrestrial ecosystems worldwide by establishing an intimate association with the roots of most land plants: the mycorrhizal symbiosis. This relationship results in an improved acquisition of nutrients (e.g., phosphate and nitrates) from the soil by the plant partners and, in exchange, allows the AMF to obtain the photosynthetically fixed carbon sources (e.g., sugars) necessary for their survival and propagation [1], [2] (Figure 1). This fungal lineage is known to impact the function and biodiversity of entire ecosystems by producing extensive underground networks, composed of hyphae and spores, that interconnect a number of unrelated individual plant species [1], [2]. These networks also function as a significant sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, and represent significant underground “nutrient highways” that benefit entire plant and microbial communities. Indeed, AMF spores and hyphae are also a valuable source of food for many soil microorganisms (i.e., bacteria, other fungi, and nematodes), and because of their many beneficial effects on terrestrial ecosystems, AMF are widely used in organic agriculture and plant nurseries to improve the growth of economically important species.

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