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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2014 Sep;89(3):516-26. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12350. Epub 2014 Jun 25.

The mycosphere constitutes an arena for horizontal gene transfer with strong evolutionary implications for bacterial-fungal interactions.

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Department of Microbial Ecology, Centre for Life Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


In the microhabitat that surrounds fungal hyphae in soil, coined the mycosphere, carbonaceous compounds that are released from the hyphae stimulate the growth of heterotrophic bacteria, and thus activate organism-to-organism contacts through genetic interactions. Therefore, the mycosphere is postulated to constitute a gene transfer arena, in which a plethora of genes, including locally adaptive ones, are swapped across the resident microbial communities. Such genetic transfers may have plasmids, in particular ones with broad host ranges, as the basis. Indeed, evidence is increasing for the contention that plasmids play crucial roles as accelerators of evolution in the mycosphere, serving as a horizontal gene pool and, therefore, providing competence factors to local bacteria as well as fungi. The evidence so far points at mycosphere roles for two major plasmid classes, the IncP-1 and PromA groups. Moreover, recent data indicate that bacterium-to-fungus gene transfers are detectable and have been evolutionarily important. The large gene pool present in the mycosphere, coupled with the chances for cell-to-cell contact between mycosphere dwellers allows enhanced recombination frequencies, and as such, organisms are selected locally for enhanced fitness.


evolution; horizontal gene transfer; mycosphere; plasmids

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