Applying molecular and genetic methods to trees and their fungal communities

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2023 May;107(9):2783-2830. doi: 10.1007/s00253-023-12480-w. Epub 2023 Mar 29.


Forests provide invaluable economic, ecological, and social services. At the same time, they are exposed to several threats, such as fragmentation, changing climatic conditions, or increasingly destructive pests and pathogens. Trees, the inherent species of forests, cannot be viewed as isolated organisms. Manifold (micro)organisms are associated with trees playing a pivotal role in forest ecosystems. Of these organisms, fungi may have the greatest impact on the life of trees. A multitude of molecular and genetic methods are now available to investigate tree species and their associated organisms. Due to their smaller genome sizes compared to tree species, whole genomes of different fungi are routinely compared. Such studies have only recently started in forest tree species. Here, we summarize the application of molecular and genetic methods in forest conservation genetics, tree breeding, and association genetics as well as for the investigation of fungal communities and their interrelated ecological functions. These techniques provide valuable insights into the molecular basis of adaptive traits, the impacts of forest management, and changing environmental conditions on tree species and fungal communities and can enhance tree-breeding cycles due to reduced time for field testing. It becomes clear that there are multifaceted interactions among microbial species as well as between these organisms and trees. We demonstrate the versatility of the different approaches based on case studies on trees and fungi. KEY POINTS: • Current knowledge of genetic methods applied to forest trees and associated fungi. • Genomic methods are essential in conservation, breeding, management, and research. • Important role of phytobiomes for trees and their ecosystems.

Keywords: Conservation; Genome; Holobiont; Interaction; Sequencing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem
  • Forests
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Mycobiome*
  • Trees* / microbiology