Patterns of diversity and adaptation in Glomeromycota from three prairie grasslands

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Abstract

Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are widespread root symbionts that often improve the fitness of their plant hosts. We tested whether local adaptation in mycorrhizal symbioses would shape the community structure of these root symbionts in a way that maximizes their symbiotic functioning. We grew a native prairie grass (Andropogon gerardii) with all possible combinations of soils and AM fungal inocula from three different prairies that varied in soil characteristics and disturbance history (two native prairie remnants and one recently restored). We identified the AM fungi colonizing A. gerardii roots using PCR amplification and cloning of the small subunit rRNA gene. We observed 13 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) belonging to six genera in three families. Taxonomic richness was higher in the restored than the native prairies with one member of the Gigaspora dominating the roots of plants grown with inocula from native prairies. Inoculum source and the soil environment influenced the composition of AM fungi that colonized plant roots. Correspondingly, host plants and AM fungi responded significantly to the soil–inoculum combinations such that home fungi often had the highest fitness and provided the greatest benefit to A. gerardii. Similar patterns were observed within the soil–inoculum combinations originating from two native prairies, where five sequence types of a single Gigaspora OTU were virtually the only root colonizers. Our results indicate that indigenous assemblages of AM fungi were adapted to the local soil environment and that this process occurred both at a community scale and at the scale of fungal sequence types within a dominant OTU.

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