Culturing and direct DNA extraction find different fungi from the same ericoid mycorrhizal roots


Author for correspondence: Mary L. Berbee Tel: (604) 822 2019 Fax: (604) 822 6809 Email:


  • • This study compares DNA and culture-based detection of fungi from 15 ericoid mycorrhizal roots of salal (Gaultheria shallon), from Vancouver Island, BC Canada.
  • • From the 15 roots, we PCR amplified fungal DNAs and analyzed 156 clones that included the internal transcribed spacer two (ITS2). From 150 different subsections of the same roots, we cultured fungi and analyzed their ITS2 DNAs by RFLP patterns or sequencing. We mapped the original position of each root section and recorded fungi detected in each.
  • • Phylogenetically, most cloned DNAs clustered among Sebacina spp. (Sebacinaceae, Basidiomycota). Capronia sp. and Hymenoscyphus erica (Ascomycota) predominated among the cultured fungi and formed intracellular hyphal coils in resynthesis experiments with salal.
  • • We illustrate patterns of fungal diversity at the scale of individual roots and compare cloned and cultured fungi from each root. Indicating a systematic culturing detection bias, Sebacina DNAs predominated in 10 of the 15 roots yet Sebacina spp. never grew from cultures from the same roots or from among the > 200 ericoid mycorrhizal fungi previously cultured from different roots from the same site.