Fungal and plant gene expression in the Tulasnella calosporaSerapias vomeracea symbiosis provides clues about nitrogen pathways in orchid mycorrhizas



  • Orchids are highly dependent on their mycorrhizal fungal partners for nutrient supply, especially during early developmental stages. In addition to organic carbon, nitrogen (N) is probably a major nutrient transferred to the plant because orchid tissues are highly N-enriched. We know almost nothing about the N form preferentially transferred to the plant or about the key molecular determinants required for N uptake and transfer.
  • We identified, in the genome of the orchid mycorrhizal fungus Tulasnella calospora, two functional ammonium transporters and several amino acid transporters but found no evidence of a nitrate assimilation system, in agreement with the N preference of the free-living mycelium grown on different N sources.
  • Differential expression in symbiosis of a repertoire of fungal and plant genes involved in the transport and metabolism of N compounds suggested that organic N may be the main form transferred to the orchid host and that ammonium is taken up by the intracellular fungus from the apoplatic symbiotic interface.
  • This is the first study addressing the genetic determinants of N uptake and transport in orchid mycorrhizas, and provides a model for nutrient exchanges at the symbiotic interface, which may guide future experiments.