Ecology and Evolution of Multigenomic Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

Am Nat. 2002 Oct;160 Suppl 4:S128-41. doi: 10.1086/342085.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) form extremely important mutualistic symbioses with most plants. Their role in nutrient acquisition, plant community structure, plant diversity, and ecosystem productivity and function has been demonstrated in recent years. New findings on the genetics and biology of AMF also give us a new picture of how these fungi exist in ecosystems. In this article, I bring together some recent findings that indicate that AMF have evolved to contain multiple genomes, that they connect plants together by a hyphal network, and that these different genomes may potentially move around in this network. These findings show the need for more intensive studies on AMF population biology and genetics in order to understand how they have evolved with plants, to better understand their ecological role, and for applying AMF in environmental management programs and in agriculture. A number of key features of AMF population biology have been identified for future studies and most of these concern the need to understand drift, selection, and genetic exchange in multigenomic organisms, a task that has not previously presented itself to evolutionary biologists.