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J Chem Ecol. 2003 Sep;29(9):1955-79.

Arbuscular mycorrhiza: biological, chemical, and molecular aspects.

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  • 1Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie, Abteilung Sekundärstoffwechsel, Weinberg 3, D-06120 Halle (Saale), Germany.


Mycorrhizas are the most important mutualistic symbioses on earth. The most prevalent type are the arbuscular mycorrhizas (AMs) that develop between roots of most terrestrial plants and fungal species of the Zygomycota. The AM fungi are able to grow into the root cortex forming intercellular hyphae from which highly branched structures, arbuscules, originate within cortex cells. The arbuscules are responsible for nutrient exchange between the host and the symbiont, transporting carbohydrates from the plant to the fungus and mineral nutrients, especially phosphate, and water from the fungus to the plant. Plants adapt their phosphate uptake to the interaction with the AM fungus by synthesis of specific phosphate transporters. Colonization of root cells induces dramatic changes in the cytoplasmic organization: vacuole fragmentation, transformation of the plasma membrane to a periarbuscular membrane covering the arbuscule, increase of the cytoplasm volume and numbers of cell organelles, as well as movement of the nucleus into a central position. The plastids form a dense network covering the symbiotic interface. In some of these changes, microtubules are most likely involved. With regard to the molecular crosstalk between the two organisms, a number of phytohormones (cytokinins, abscisic acid, jasmonate) as well as various secondary metabolites have been examined: (i) Jasmonates occur at elevated level, which is accompanied by cell-specific expression of genes involved in jasmonate biosynthesis that might be linked to strong carbohydrate sink function of AM roots and induced defense reactions: (ii) apocarotenoids (derivatives of mycorradicin and glycosylated cyclohexenones) accumulate in most mycorrhizal roots examined so far. Their biosynthesis via the nonmevalonate methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway has been studied resulting in new insights into AM-specific gene expression and biosynthesis of secondary isoprenoids.

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