Small genetic differences between ericoid mycorrhizal fungi affect nitrogen uptake by Vaccinium

New Phytol. 2009;181(3):708-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02678.x. Epub 2008 Nov 13.


Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi have been shown to differ in their pattern of nitrogen (N) use in pure culture. Here, we investigate whether this functional variation is maintained in symbiosis using three ascomycetes from a clade not previously shown to include ericoid mycorrhizal taxa. Vaccinium macrocarpon and Vaccinium vitis-idaea were inoculated with three fungal strains known to form coils in Vaccinium roots, which differed in their patterns of N use in liquid culture. (15)N was used to trace the uptake of -N, -N and glutamine-N into shoots. (15)N transfer differed among the three fungal strains, including two that had identical internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences, and was quantitatively related to fungal growth in liquid culture at low carbon availability. These results demonstrate that functional differences among closely related ericoid mycorrhizal fungi are maintained in symbiosis with their hosts, and suggest that N transfer to plant shoots in ericoid mycorrhizas is under fungal control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Biomass
  • Fungi / genetics*
  • Fungi / growth & development
  • Fungi / isolation & purification
  • Mycorrhizae / genetics*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Shoots / metabolism
  • Plant Shoots / microbiology
  • Seedlings / metabolism
  • Seedlings / microbiology
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Vaccinium / metabolism*
  • Vaccinium / microbiology*


  • Nitrogen