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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2002 Dec 1;42(3):477-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2002.tb01036.x.

Spatial distribution of the below-ground mycelia of an ectomycorrhizal fungus inferred from specific quantification of its DNA in soil samples.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Ecologie Microbienne (UMR CNRS 5557), UniversitĂ© Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Bâtiment A. Lwoff, 43 Boulevard du 11 Novembre 1918, F-69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France.


In natural forest ecosystems several ectomycorrhizal fungal species cohabit on host plant root systems. To evaluate the ecological and functional impact of each species, it is necessary to appreciate the distribution and abundance of its mycelia in the soil. We developed a competitive PCR (cPCR) method for the basidiomycete Hebeloma cylindrosporum that allows quantification of its DNA in complex DNA mixtures extracted directly from soil samples. The target sequence chosen for the cPCR analysis was a 533-bp fragment of the nuclear ribosomal intergenic spacer, amplified using two species-specific primers. The detection threshold of the cPCR protocol developed was 0.03 pg of genomic DNA. This method was applied to soil samples collected from beneath and at various distances from a group of fruit bodies in a Pinus pinaster forest stand. The results revealed that H. cylindrosporum below-ground biomass was concentrated directly underneath the fruit bodies or very close to them, while no DNA of this species could be detected in soil samples collected at more than 50 cm away. In the vicinity of fruit bodies, H. cylindrosporum soil DNA concentration varied considerably (between 10 and 0.07 ng g soil(-1)) and decreased sharply with increased distance from the fruit bodies. This work demonstrates the potential of competitive quantitative PCR for the study of the distribution, abundance and persistence of the mycelia of an ectomycorrhizal fungal species in soil.

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