The microbiological interactions of the roots of non-photosynthetic plants in South America have been scarcely explored. This study analyzes culturable fungal diversity associated with the mycoheterotrophic plant Arachnitis uniflora Phil. (Corsiaceae) in southern Chile, growing in two different understoreys of native (Nothofagus-dominated) and mixed forest (native, Cupressus sempervirens, and Pinus radiata). Rhizospheric and endophytic fungi were isolated, cultured, and purified to identify microorganisms associated with A. uniflora roots. We showed the different fungi associated with the plant, and that these distributions are influenced by the sampling site. We isolated 410 fungal strains (144 endophytic and 266 from the rhizosphere). We identified 13 operative taxonomical units from plants sampled in the mixed forest, while 15 were from the native forest. Rhizospheric microorganisms were mainly related to Penicillium spp., whereas some pathogenic and saprophytic strains were more frequent inside the roots. Our results have also shown that the fungal strains are weak for phosphate solubilization, but other pathways such as organic acid exudation and indole acetic acid production can be considered as major mechanisms to stimulate plant growth. Our results point to new fungal associates of A. uniflora plants reported in Andean ecosystems, identifying new beneficial endophytic fungi associated with roots of this fully mycoheterotrophic plant.
Keywords: endophytes; mycoheterotrophy; mycorrhizal fungi; organic acids; soil fungi; symbiosis.