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Plant–Fungal Interactions in Mycorrhizas

  1. P Bonfante

Published Online: 17 JUN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0022339



How to Cite

Bonfante, P. 2010. Plant–Fungal Interactions in Mycorrhizas. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Torino, Department of Plant Biology and IPP-CNR, Torino, Italy

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 JUN 2010


Mycorrhizas are widespread symbiotic associations established between the roots of the majority of land plants, and a heterogeneous group of beneficial fungi belonging to diverse fungal taxa. Their ubiquitous presence argues that they have been favoured during evolution thanks to the benefits gained by both the plant and fungal partners. Advances in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology coupled to high-throughput sequencing have allowed the genomes of some symbionts to be studied, as well as the molecular basis of cross-talk between plant and fungus. We are beginning to see the contributions of the partners to the functioning of mycorrhizal associations. Advanced microscopy of the living partner cells has unravelled some processes determining compatibility which are a peculiar feature of mycorrhizal interactions.

Key Concepts:

  • The term Mycorrhiza comes from two Greek words for ‘fungus’ and ‘root’ and describes root–fungus associations which may be morphologically and functionally diverse.

  • Molecular approaches have solved questions about the identity of mycorrhizal fungi both free in the soil and root associated in symbiotic structures.

  • Nutritional interactions among plants and fungi in the rhizosphere may be saprotrophic, pathogenic or symbiotic.

  • Recent advances in genome sequencing of ectomycorrhizal fungi identify some basic features which are characteristic of mycorrhizal fungi, that is the absence of effectors which may elicit plant defence.

  • Transcriptome profiles of ectomycorrhizal roots reveal differential regulation of both plant and fungus.

  • Glomeromycota possess peculiar features (i.e. an obligate biotrophic status and multinucleated hyphae) which at the moment limit a full understanding of their biology.

  • Many model plants are compatible hosts for arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

  • The transduction signalling pathways which control arbuscular mycorrhizal establishment and legume/rhizobium nodule formation are at least partly the same.

  • Plant cells undergo complex cellular and molecular reprogramming when they accommodate the AM fungus.

  • The core of a functioning arbuscular mycorrhiza lies at the interface between the two partners.


  • arbuscular mycorrhizas;
  • Glomeromycota;
  • ectomycorrhizas;
  • nutrient exchange;
  • interface compartment;
  • rhizosphere;
  • genome sequencing;
  • signalling molecules;
  • GFP plants;
  • cell compatibility