Ectomycorrhizal Cortinarius species participate in enzymatic oxidation of humus in northern forest ecosystems

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Summary

  • In northern forests, belowground sequestration of nitrogen (N) in complex organic pools restricts nutrient availability to plants. Oxidative extracellular enzymes produced by ectomycorrhizal fungi may aid plant N acquisition by providing access to N in macromolecular complexes. We test the hypotheses that ectomycorrhizal Cortinarius species produce Mn-dependent peroxidases, and that the activity of these enzymes declines at elevated concentrations of inorganic N.
  • In a boreal pine forest and a sub-arctic birch forest, Cortinarius DNA was assessed by 454-sequencing of ITS amplicons and related to Mn-peroxidase activity in humus samples with- and without previous N amendment. Transcription of Cortinarius Mn-peroxidase genes was investigated in field samples. Phylogenetic analyses of Cortinarius peroxidase amplicons and genome sequences were performed.
  • We found a significant co-localization of high peroxidase activity and DNA from Cortinarius species. Peroxidase activity was reduced by high ammonium concentrations. Amplification of mRNA sequences indicated transcription of Cortinarius Mn-peroxidase genes under field conditions. The Cortinarius glaucopus genome encodes 11 peroxidases – a number comparable to many white-rot wood decomposers.
  • These results support the hypothesis that some ectomycorrhizal fungi – Cortinarius species in particular – may play an important role in decomposition of complex organic matter, linked to their mobilization of organically bound N.

Ancillary