• Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas;
  • mutualism;
  • parasitism;
  • mycotrophy;
  • Salsola kali


Vesicular–arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi reduced the growth and survival of the non-mycotrophic weed, Salsola kali (Chenopodiaceae) in field and greenhouse experiments. To determine the mechanisms by which mycorrhizal fungi can affect a non-mycotrophic plant, we mapped the root responses of S. kali and the mycotrophic grass Agropyron dasystachyum to invasion by a mixture of Glomus spp. and by Gigaspora margarita. The fungi invaded the roots of both species within 10 days following seed germination. In A. dasystachyum normal mycorrhizal development occurred and no root browning or autofluorescence was observed, indicating a compatible reaction. In S. kali, the fungi initially invaded the roots and formed arbuscules and peletons. The roots reacted to invasion by autofluorescing bright yellow, suggesting lignification. With 1 or 2 days following root penetration by the fungus, the invaded root segment turned brown and, with the exception of some vesicles, the fungus disappeared from the root. The fungus sometimes then reinvaded new root segments farther down the root.

These observations suggest that there is an incompatible reaction beween this non-mycotrophic annual and VA mycorrhizal fungi whereby the plant actively rejects infection. This response could form the basis for initiating studies on the genetics of mutualistic versus parasitic symbioses.