Molecular diversity of fungi from ericoid mycorrhizal roots


  • Silvia Perotto and Paola Bonfante are interested in mycorrhizal associations, and the research described was part of investigations into the genetic diversity of ecto- and endomycorrhizal fungi. Elisa Actis-Perino and Jolanda Perugini did the reinoculation experiments and contributed to the molecular analysis.

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In order to investigate the diversity of fungal endophytes in ericoid mycorrhizal roots, about 150 mycelia were isolated from surface-sterilized roots of 10 plants of Calluna vulgaris. Each mycelium was reinoculated to C. vulgaris seedlings under axenic conditions, and the phenotype of the plant-fungus association assessed by light and electron microscopy. Many isolates that were able in vitro to produce typical ericoid mycorrhizae did not form reproductive structures under our culture conditions, whereas others could be identified as belonging to the species Oidiodendron maius. Morphological and molecular analysis of the fungal isolates showed that the root system of a single plant of C. vulgaris is a complex mosaic of several populations of mycorrhizal and non mycorrhizal fungi. PCR-RFLP techniques, used to investigate the mycorrhizal endophytes, revealed up to four groups of fungi with different PCR-RFLP patterns of the ITS ribosomal region from a single plant. Some of the mycorrhizal fungi sharing the same PCR-RFLP pattern showed high degree of genetic polymorphism when analysed with the more sensitive RAPD technique; this technique may prove a useful tool to trace the spread of individual mycorrhizal mycelia, as it has allowed us to identify isolates with identical RAPD fingerprints on different plants.