• ectomycorrhizal fungi;
  • lignin peroxidase;
  • manganese peroxidase;
  • saprotrophism;
  • ligninolytic genes


  • • 
    Genes for ligninolytic enzymes, normally associated with white-rot fungi, are shown to be widespread in a broad taxonomic range of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi.
  • • 
    ECM fungi were screened for lignin peroxidase (LiP) and manganese peroxidase (MnP) genes by PCR using primers specific for known isozymes in the white-rot fungus Phanerochaete chrysosporium, with DNA sequencing used to confirm the identity of the amplified fragments.
  • • 
    Genes for LiPs were detected in ECM fungi representing the orders Agaricales, Aphyllophorales, Boletales, Cantharellales, Hymenochaetales, Sclerodermatales, Stereales and Thelephorales. MnP genes were detected in only Cortinarius rotundisporus and three ECM Stereales taxa.
  • • 
    The presence of genes for decomposer activities supports putative evolutionary relationships between ECM and saprotrophic fungi. Expression of the lignolytic genes may facilitate ECM fungal access to nutrients associated with dead plant material in soil and potentially a supplementary carbon supply. Strict functional boundaries between ECM and decomposer fungi may be less clear-cut than previously thought.