Genetic variability in a population of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi causes variation in plant growth



Different species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) alter plant growth and affect plant coexistence and diversity. Effects of within-AMF species or within-population variation on plant growth have received less attention. High genetic variation exists within AMF populations. However, it is unknown whether genetic variation contributes to differences in plant growth. In our study, a population of AMF was cultivated under identical conditions for several generations prior to the experiments thus avoiding environmental maternal effects. We show that genetically different Glomus intraradices isolates from one AMF population significantly alter plant growth in an axenic system and in greenhouse experiments. Isolates increased or reduced plant growth meaning that plants potentially receive benefits or are subject to costs by forming associations with different individuals in the AMF population. This shows that genetic variability in AMF populations could affect host-plant fitness and should be considered in future research to understand these important soil organisms.