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Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2015 Aug;26:45-50. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2015.06.001. Epub 2015 Jun 25.

Reconsidering mutualistic plant-fungal interactions through the lens of effector biology.

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Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia. Electronic address:
INRA, UMR 1136 INRA-University of Lorraine, Interactions Arbres/Microorganismes, Laboratory of Excellence ARBRE, INRA-Nancy, 54280 Champenoux, France. Electronic address:


Mutualistic mycorrhizal plant-fungal interactions have shaped the evolution of plant life on land. In these intimate associations, fungal hyphae grow invasively within plant tissues. Despite this invasion, these mycorrhizal fungi are not repulsed leading to a great deal of research focused on the signals exchanged between mutualistic fungi and their host plants in an effort to understand how these relationships are established. In this review, we focus on one type of signal used by mutualistic fungi during symbiosis: effector proteins. These small secreted proteins have recently been found to be used by a range of beneficial fungi to alter the physiological status of the plant host such that symbiosis is favoured. We discuss how the role of these novel proteins has altered our vision of how the 'mutualistic' lifestyle evolved in fungi: rather than being perceived as beneficial by their plant hosts, these microbes currently viewed as 'beneficial' may actually be overcoming the defences of their plant hosts in a mechanism originally thought to be unique to pathogenic microbes.

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