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Summary

External hyphae, which play a key role in nitrogen nutrition of trees, are considered as the absorbing structures of the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis. Here, we have cloned and characterized Hebeloma cylindrosporum AMT1, GLNA and GDHA genes, which encode a third ammonium transporter, a glutamine synthetase and an NADP-dependent glutamate dehydrogenase respectively. Amt1 can fully restore the pseudohyphal growth defect of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae mep2 mutant, and this is the first evidence that a heterologous member of the Mep/Amt family complements this dimorphic change defect. Dixon plots of the inhibition of methylamine uptake by ammonium indicate that Amt1 has a much higher affinity than the two previously characterized members (Amt2 and Amt3) of the Amt/Mep family in H. cylindrosporum. We also identified the intracellular nitrogen pool(s) responsible for the modulation of expression of AMT1, AMT2, AMT3, GDHA and GLNA. In response to exogenously supplied ammonium or glutamine, AMT1, AMT2 and GDHA were downregulated and, therefore, these genes are subjected to nitrogen repression in H. cylindrosporum. Exogenously supplied nitrate failed to induce a downregulation of the five mRNAs after transfer of mycelia from a N-starved condition. Our results demonstrate that glutamine is the main effector for AMT1 and AMT2 repression, whereas GDHA repression is controlled by intracellular ammonium, independently of the intracellular glutamine or glutamate concentration. Ammonium transport activity may be controlled by intracellular NH4+. AMT3 and GLNA are highly expressed but not highly regulated. A model for ammonium assimilation in H. cylindrosporum is presented.