The aquaporin gene family of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor: lessons for symbiotic functions


Author for correspondence:
Uwe Nehls
Tel: +49 421 218 62901


  • Soil humidity and bulk water transport are essential for nutrient mobilization. Ectomycorrhizal fungi, bridging soil and fine roots of woody plants, are capable of modulating both by being integrated into water movement driven by plant transpiration and the nocturnal hydraulic lift.
  • Aquaporins are integral membrane proteins that function as gradient-driven water and/or solute channels. Seven aquaporins were identified in the genome of the ectomycorrhizal basidiomycete Laccaria bicolor and their role in fungal transfer processes was analyzed.
  • Heterologous expression in Xenopus laevis oocytes revealed relevant water permeabilities for three aquaporins. In fungal mycelia, expression of the corresponding genes was high compared with other members of the gene family, indicating the significance of the respective proteins for plasma membrane water permeability.
  • As growth temperature and ectomycorrhiza formation modified gene expression profiles of these water-conducting aquaporins, specific roles in those aspects of fungal physiology are suggested. Two aquaporins, which were highly expressed in ectomycorrhizas, conferred plasma membrane ammonia permeability in yeast. This indicates that these proteins are an integral part of ectomycorrhizal fungus-based plant nitrogen nutrition in symbiosis.