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Nature. 2001 Sep 20;413(6853):297-9.

An arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus accelerates decomposition and acquires nitrogen directly from organic material.

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Department of Biology, University of York, PO Box 373, York, YO10 5YW, UK.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (order Glomales), which form mycorrhizal symbioses with two out of three of all plant species, are believed to be obligate biotrophs that are wholly dependent on the plant partner for their carbon supply. It is thought that they possess no degradative capability and that they are unable to decompose complex organic molecules, the form in which most soil nutrients occur. Earlier suggestions that they could exist saprotrophically were based on observation of hyphal proliferation on organic materials. In contrast, other mycorrhizal types have been shown to acquire nitrogen directly from organic sources. Here we show that the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis can both enhance decomposition of and increase nitrogen capture from complex organic material (grass leaves) in soil. Hyphal growth of the fungal partner was increased in the presence of the organic material, independently of the host plant.

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