A critical review of 25 years of glomalin research: a better mechanical understanding and robust quantification techniques are required

New Phytol. 2021 Sep 5. doi: 10.1111/nph.17713. Online ahead of print.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are important contributors to both plant and soil health. Twenty-five years ago, researchers discovered 'glomalin', a soil component potentially produced by AMF, which was unconventionally extracted from soil and bound by a monoclonal antibody raised against Rhizophagus irregularis spores. 'Glomalin' can resist boiling, strong acids and bases, and protease treatment. Researchers proposed that 'glomalin' is a 60 kDa heat-shock protein produced by AMF, while others suggested that it is a mixture of soil organic materials that are not unique to AMF. Despite disagreements on the nature of 'glomalin', it has been consistently associated with a long list of plant and soil health benefits, including soil aggregation, soil carbon storage, and enhancing growth under abiotic stress. The benefits attributed to 'glomalin' have caused much excitement in the plant and soil health community; however, the mechanism(s) for these benefits have yet to be established. This review provides insights into the current understanding of the identity of 'glomalin', 'glomalin' quantification, and the associated benefits of 'glomalin'. We invite the community to think more critically about how glomalin-associated benefits are generated. We suggest a series of experiments to test hypotheses regarding the nature of 'glomalin' and associated health benefits.

Keywords: HSP60; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF); glomalin; soil aggregation; soil carbon storage; soil health.

Publication types

  • Review