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Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2006 Aug;9(4):364-70. Epub 2006 May 19.

Mutualism and parasitism: the yin and yang of plant symbioses.

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Laboratory of Plant Genetics, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.


Plants are solar-powered sugar factories that feed a multitude of other organisms. Many of these organisms associate directly with host plants to gain access to the plant's photosynthates. Such symbioses encompass a wide collection of styles ranging from mutualistic to commensal and parasitic. Among these, the mutualistic arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis is one of the evolutionarily oldest symbioses of plants, relying on the formation of an intimate relationship between fungi of the Glomeromycota and roots of the majority of vascular flowering plants. In this symbiosis, the fungus intracellularly colonizes living root cells, implying the existence of an extreme form of compatibility. Interestingly, molecular events that happen in the plant in response to mycorrhizal colonization also occur in other beneficial and, as recently shown, even antagonistic plant symbioses. Thus, basic 'compatibility modules' appear to be partially conserved between mutualism and parasitism.

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