Arbuscular mycorrhiza: the mother of plant root endosymbioses

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2008 Oct;6(10):763-75. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1987.


Arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM), a symbiosis between plants and members of an ancient phylum of fungi, the Glomeromycota, improves the supply of water and nutrients, such as phosphate and nitrogen, to the host plant. In return, up to 20% of plant-fixed carbon is transferred to the fungus. Nutrient transport occurs through symbiotic structures inside plant root cells known as arbuscules. AM development is accompanied by an exchange of signalling molecules between the symbionts. A novel class of plant hormones known as strigolactones are exuded by the plant roots. On the one hand, strigolactones stimulate fungal metabolism and branching. On the other hand, they also trigger seed germination of parasitic plants. Fungi release signalling molecules, in the form of 'Myc factors' that trigger symbiotic root responses. Plant genes required for AM development have been characterized. During evolution, the genetic programme for AM has been recruited for other plant root symbioses: functional adaptation of a plant receptor kinase that is essential for AM symbiosis paved the way for nitrogen-fixing bacteria to form intracellular symbioses with plant cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Mycorrhizae / genetics
  • Mycorrhizae / physiology*
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • Plant Roots / microbiology*
  • Plant Roots / physiology
  • Plants / genetics
  • Symbiosis / physiology*