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Summary

Some arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi contain endocellular bacteria. In Gigaspora margarita BEG 34, a homogenous population of β-Proteobacteria is hosted inside the fungal spore. The bacteria, named Candidatus Glomeribacter gigasporarum, are vertically transmitted through fungal spore generations. Here we report how a protocol based on repeated passages through single-spore inocula caused dilution of the initial bacterial population eventually leading to cured spores. Spores of this line had a distinct phenotype regarding cytoplasm organization, vacuole morphology, cell wall organization, lipid bodies and pigment granules. The absence of bacteria severely affected presymbiotic fungal growth such as hyphal elongation and branching after root exudate treatment, suggesting that Ca. Glomeribacter gigasporarum is important for optimal development of its fungal host. Under laboratory conditions, the cured fungus could be propagated, i.e. could form mycorrhizae and sporulate, and can therefore be considered as a stable variant of the wild type. The results demonstrated that – at least for the G. margarita BEG 34 isolate – the absence of endobacteria affects the spore phenotype of the fungal host, and causes delays in the growth of germinating mycelium, possibly affecting its ecological fitness. This cured line is the first manipulated and stable isolate of an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus.