A dual transcriptomic approach reveals contrasting patterns of differential gene expression during drought in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus and carrot

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2023 Sep 12. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-04-23-0038-R. Online ahead of print.


While arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are known for providing host plants with improved drought tolerance, we know very little about the fungal response to drought in the context of the fungal-plant relationship. In this study, we evaluated the drought responses of the host and symbiont, using the fungus Rhizophagus irregularis with carrot as a plant model. Carrots (Daucus carota) inoculated with spores of R. irregularis DAOM 197198 grew in a greenhouse. During taproot development, carrots were exposed to a 10-day water restriction. Compared with well-watered conditions, drought caused diminished photosynthetic activity and reduced plant growth in carrot with and without AM fungi. Droughted carrots had lower root colonization. For R. irregularis, 93% of 826 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were upregulated during drought, including phosphate transporters, several predicted transport proteins of potassium, and the aquaporin RiAQPF2. In contrast, 78% of 2,486 DEGs in AM carrot were downregulated during drought, including the symbiosis-specific genes FatM, RAM2, and STR, which are implicated in lipid transfer from the host to the fungus and were upregulated exclusively in AM carrot during well-watered conditions. Overall, this study provides insight into the drought response of an AM fungus in relation to its host; the expression of genes related to symbiosis and nutrient exchange were downregulated in carrot but upregulated in the fungus. This study reveals that carrot and R. irregularis exhibit contrast in their regulation of gene expression during drought, with carrot reducing its apparent investment in symbiosis and the fungus increasing its apparent symbiotic efforts.