The genome of Geosiphon pyriformis reveals ancestral traits linked to the emergence of the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis

Curr Biol. 2021 Apr 12;31(7):1570-1577.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.01.058. Epub 2021 Feb 15.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) (subphylum Glomeromycotina)1 are among the most prominent symbionts and form the Arbuscular Mycorrhizal symbiosis (AMS) with over 70% of known land plants.2,3 AMS allows plants to efficiently acquire poorly soluble soil nutrients4 and AMF to receive photosynthetically fixed carbohydrates. This plant-fungus symbiosis dates back more than 400 million years5 and is thought to be one of the key innovations that allowed the colonization of lands by plants.6 Genomic and genetic analyses of diverse plant species started to reveal the molecular mechanisms that allowed the evolution of this symbiosis on the host side, but how and when AMS abilities emerged in AMF remain elusive. Comparative phylogenomics could be used to understand the evolution of AMS.7,8 However, the availability of genome data covering basal AMF phylogenetic nodes (Archaeosporales, Paraglomerales) is presently based on fragmentary protein coding datasets.9Geosiphon pyriformis (Archaeosporales) is the only fungus known to produce endosymbiosis with nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (Nostoc punctiforme) presumably representing the ancestral AMF state.10-12 Unlike other AMF, it forms long fungal cells ("bladders") that enclose cyanobacteria. Once in the bladder, the cyanobacteria are photosynthetically active and fix nitrogen, receiving inorganic nutrients and water from the fungus. Arguably, G. pyriformis represents an ideal candidate to investigate the origin of AMS and the emergence of a unique endosymbiosis. Here, we aimed to advance knowledge in these questions by sequencing the genome of G. pyriformis, using a re-discovered isolate.

Keywords: Geosiphon pyriformis; Nostoc Punctiforme; binning; bladders; cyanobacteria; endocyanosis; homokaryon; metagenome; symbiosis; transposon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cyanobacteria
  • Fungi / genetics*
  • Genome, Fungal*
  • Mycorrhizae* / genetics
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • Phylogeny
  • Plants* / microbiology
  • Symbiosis / genetics

Supplementary concepts

  • Geosiphon pyriformis