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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 May 28;93(11):5659-62.

Congruence of fatty acid methyl ester profiles and morphological characters of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in Gigasporaceae.

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  • 1Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506-6057, USA.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (Order Glomales, Class Zygomycetes) are a diverse group of soil fungi that form mutualistic associations with the roots of most species of higher plants. Despite intensive study over the past 25 years, the phylogenetic relationships among AM fungi, and thus many details of evolution of the symbiosis, remain unclear. Cladistic analysis was performed on fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiles of 15 species in Gigaspora and Scutellospora (family Gigasporaceae) by using a restricted maximum likelihood approach of continuous character data. Results were compared to a parsimony analysis of spore morphological characters of the same species. Only one tree was generated from each character set. Morphological and developmental data suggest that species with the simplest spore types are ancestral whereas those with complicated inner wall structures are derived. Spores of those species having a complex wall structure pass through stages of development identical to the mature stages of simpler spores, suggesting a pattern of classical Haeckelian recapitulation in evolution of spore characters. Analysis of FAME profiles supported this hypothesis when Glomus leptotichum was used as the outgroup. However, when Glomus etunicatum was chosen as the outgroup, the polarity of the entire tree was reversed. Our results suggest that FAME profiles contain useful information and provide independent criteria for generating phylogenetic hypotheses in AM fungi. The maximum likelihood approach to analyzing FAME profiles also may prove useful for many other groups of organisms in which profiles are empirically shown to be stable and heritable.

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