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Tit for tat? A mycorrhizal fungus accumulates phosphorus under low plant carbon availability.

  • Edith Hammer
  • Jan Pallon
  • Håkan Wallander
  • Pål Axel Olsson
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 236-244
Publication/Series: FEMS microbiology ecology
Volume: 76
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

The exchange of carbohydrates and mineral nutrients in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis must be controlled by both partners in order to sustain an evolutionarily stable mutualism. Plants down-regulate their carbon flow to the fungus when nutrient levels are sufficient, while the mechanism controlling fungal nutrient transfer is unknown. Here we show that the fungus accumulates nutrients when connected to a host that is of less benefit to the fungus, indicating a potential of the fungus to control the transfer of nutrients. We used a monoxenic in vitro model of root organ cultures associated with G. intraradices, in which we manipulated the carbon availability to the plant. We found that G. intraradices accumulated up to 7 times more nutrients in its spores, and up to 9 times more in its hyphae, when the carbon pool available to the associated roots was halved. The strongest effect was found for phosphorus, considered to be the most important nutrient in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. Other elements such as potassium and chorine were also accumulated, but to a lesser extent, while no accumulation of iron or manganese was found. Our results suggest a functional linkage between carbon and phosphorus exchange.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Subatomic Physics
  • Ecology


  • Ectomycorrhizal fungi and nutrient mobilisation
  • Ectomycorrhizal fungi and apatite weathering
  • BECC
  • Microbial Ecology
  • ISSN: 1574-6941
Edith Hammer
E-mail: edith [dot] hammer [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Associate senior lecturer


+46 46 222 45 36

+46 73 244 19 68


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Research group

Microbial Ecology



PhD students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

Carlos Arellano


Kristin Aleklett