Changes in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal phenotypes and genotypes in response to plant species identity and phosphorus concentration


Author for correspondence:
Ian R. Sanders
Tel: +41 21 692 4261


  • • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are plant symbionts that improve floristic diversity and ecosystem productivity. Many AMF species are generalists with wide host ranges. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi individuals are heterokaryotic, and AMF populations are genetically diverse. Populations of AMF harbor two levels of genetic diversity on which selection can act, namely among individuals and within individuals. Whether environmental factors alter genetic diversity within populations is still unknown.
  • • Here, we measured genetic changes and changes in fitness-related traits of genetically distinct AMF individuals from one field, grown with different concentrations of available phosphate or different host species.
  • • We found significant genotype-by-environment interactions for AMF fitness traits in response to these treatments. Host identity had a strong effect on the fitness of different AMF, unearthing a specificity of response within Glomus intraradices. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi individuals grown in novel environments consistently showed a reduced presence of polymorphic genetic markers, providing some evidence for host or phosphate-induced genetic change in AMF.
  • • Given that AMF individuals can form extensive hyphal networks colonizing different hosts simultaneously, contrasting habitats or soil properties may lead to evolution in the population. Local selection may alter the structure of AMF populations and maintain genetic diversity, potentially even within the hyphal network of one fungus.