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Microb Ecol. 2008 Nov;56(4):649-59. doi: 10.1007/s00248-008-9384-9. Epub 2008 May 1.

Molecular community analysis of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in roots of geothermal soils in Yellowstone National Park (USA).

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  • 1Institute of Botany, University of Basel, Hebelstrasse 1, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.


To better understand adaptation of plants and their mycorrhizae to extreme environmental conditions, we analyzed the composition of communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in roots from geothermal sites in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), USA. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi were identified using molecular methods including seven specific primer pairs for regions of the ribosomal DNA that amplify different subgroups of AMF. Roots of Dichanthelium lanuginosum, a grass only occurring in geothermal areas, were sampled along with thermal and nonthermal Agrostis scabra and control plants growing outside the thermally influenced sites. In addition, root samples of Agrostis stolonifera from geothermal areas of Iceland were analyzed to identify possible common mycosymbionts between these geographically isolated locations. In YNP, 16 ribosomal DNA phylotypes belonging to the genera Archaeospora, Glomus, Paraglomus, Scutellospora, and Acaulospora were detected. Eight of these phylotypes could be assigned to known morphospecies, two others have been reported previously in molecular studies from different environments, and six were new to science. The most diverse and abundant lineage was Glomus group A, with the most frequent phylotype corresponding to Glomus intraradices. Five of the seven phylotypes detected in a preliminary sampling in a geothermal area in Iceland were also found in YNP. Nonthermal vegetation was dominated by a high diversity of Glomus group A phylotypes while nonthermal plants were not. Using multivariate analyses, a subset of three phylotypes were determined to be associated with geothermal conditions in the field sites analyzed. In conclusion, AMF communities in geothermal soils are distinct in their composition, including both unique phylotypes and generalist fungi that occur across a broad range of environmental conditions.

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