Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi native from a Mediterranean saline area enhance maize tolerance to salinity through improved ion homeostasis


Correspondence: J. M. Ruiz-Lozano. Fax: +34 958 129600; e-mail:


Soil salinity restricts plant growth and productivity. Na+ represents the major ion causing toxicity because it competes with K+ for binding sites at the plasma membrane. Inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can alleviate salt stress in the host plant through several mechanisms. These may include ion selection during the fungal uptake of nutrients from the soil or during transfer to the host plant. AM benefits could be enhanced when native AMF isolates are used. Thus, we investigated whether native AMF isolated from an area with problems of salinity and desertification can help maize plants to overcome the negative effects of salinity stress better than non-AM plants or plants inoculated with non-native AMF. Results showed that plants inoculated with two out the three native AMF had the highest shoot dry biomass at all salinity levels. Plants inoculated with the three native AMF showed significant increase of K+ and reduced Na+ accumulation as compared to non-mycorrhizal plants, concomitantly with higher K+/Na+ ratios in their tissues. For the first time, these effects have been correlated with regulation of ZmAKT2, ZmSOS1 and ZmSKOR genes expression in the roots of maize, contributing to K+ and Na+ homeostasis in plants colonized by native AMF.