The colonisation of tree roots by ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi is the result of numerous signalling exchanges between organisms, many of which occur before physical contact. However, information is lacking about these exchanges and the compounds that are secreted by each organism before contact. This is in part due to a lack of low disturbance sampling methods with sufficient temporal and spatial resolution to capture these exchanges. Using a novel in situ microdialysis approach, we sampled metabolites released from Eucalyptus grandis and Pisolithus microcarpus independently and during indirect contact over a 48-h time-course using UPLC-MS. A total of 560 and 1530 molecular features (MFs; ESI- and ESI+ respectively) were identified with significant differential abundance from control treatments. We observed that indirect contact between organisms altered the secretion of MFs to produce a distinct metabolomic profile compared to either organism independently. Many of these MFs were produced within the first hour of contact and included several phenylpropanoids, fatty acids and organic acids. These findings show that the secreted metabolome, particularly of the ECM fungus, can rapidly shift during the early stages of pre-symbiotic contact and highlight the importance of observing these early interactions in greater detail. We present microdialysis as a useful tool for examining plant-fungal signalling with high temporal resolution and with minimal experimental disturbance.
Keywords: ectomycorrhizal fungi; metabolomics; microdialysis; pre-symbiosis signalling.