Mixotrophy of Platanthera minor, an orchid associated with ectomycorrhiza-forming Ceratobasidiaceae fungi
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- •We investigated the fungal symbionts and carbon nutrition of a Japanese forest photosynthetic orchid, Platanthera minor, whose ecology suggests a mixotrophic syndrome, that is, a mycorrhizal association with ectomycorrhiza (ECM)-forming fungi and partial exploitation of fungal carbon.
- •We performed molecular identification of symbionts by PCR amplifications of the fungal ribosomal DNA on hyphal coils extracted from P. minor roots. We tested for a 13C and 15N enrichment characteristic of mixotrophic plants. We also tested the ectomycorrhizal abilities of orchid symbionts using a new protocol of direct inoculation of hyphal coils onto roots of Pinus densiflora seedlings.
- •In phylogenetic analyses, most isolated fungi were close to ECM-forming Ceratobasidiaceae clades previously detected from a few fully heterotrophic orchids or environmental ectomycorrhiza surveys. The direct inoculation of fungal coils of these fungi resulted in ectomycorrhiza formation on P. densiflora seedlings. Stable isotope analyses indicated mixotrophic nutrition of P. minor, with fungal carbon contributing from 50% to 65%.
- •This is the first evidence of photosynthetic orchids associated with ectomycorrhizal Ceratobasidiaceae taxa, confirming the evolution of mixotrophy in the Orchideae orchid tribe, and of ectomycorrhizal abilities in the Ceratobasidiaceae. Our new ectomycorrhiza formation technique may enhance the study of unculturable orchid mycorrhizal fungi.