Coexistence of genetically different Rhizophagus irregularis isolates induces genes involved in a putative fungal mating response

ISME J. 2020 Oct;14(10):2381-2394. doi: 10.1038/s41396-020-0694-3. Epub 2020 Jun 8.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are of great ecological importance because of their effects on plant growth. Closely related genotypes of the same AMF species coexist in plant roots. However, almost nothing is known about the molecular interactions occurring during such coexistence. We compared in planta AMF gene transcription in single and coinoculation treatments with two genetically different isolates of Rhizophagus irregularis in symbiosis independently on three genetically different cassava genotypes. Remarkably few genes were specifically upregulated when the two fungi coexisted. Strikingly, almost all of the genes with an identifiable putative function were known to be involved in mating in other fungal species. Several genes were consistent across host plant genotypes but more upregulated genes involved in putative mating were observed in host genotype (COL2215) compared with the two other host genotypes. The AMF genes that we observed to be specifically upregulated during coexistence were either involved in the mating pheromone response, in meiosis, sexual sporulation or were homologs of MAT-locus genes known in other fungal species. We did not observe the upregulation of the expected homeodomain genes contained in a putative AMF MAT-locus, but observed upregulation of HMG-box genes similar to those known to be involved in mating in Mucoromycotina species. Finally, we demonstrated that coexistence between the two fungal genotypes in the coinoculation treatments explained the number of putative mating response genes activated in the different plant host genotypes. This study demonstrates experimentally the activation of genes involved in a putative mating response and represents an important step towards the understanding of coexistence and sexual reproduction in these important plant symbionts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fungi
  • Glomeromycota* / genetics
  • Mycorrhizae* / genetics
  • Plant Roots
  • Reproduction
  • Symbiosis / genetics

Supplementary concepts

  • Rhizophagus irregularis