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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1996 Aug;62(8):3005-10.

An obligately endosymbiotic mycorrhizal fungus itself harbors obligately intracellular bacteria.

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Dipartimento di Biologia Vegetale, Università di Torino, Italy.


Arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungi are obligate endosymbionts that colonize the roots of almost 80% of land plants. This paper describes the employment of a combined morphological and molecular approach to demonstrate that the cytoplasm of the arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungus Gigaspora margarita harbors a further bacterial endosymbiont. Intracytoplasmic bacterium-like organisms (BLOs) were detected ultrastructurally in its spores and germinating and symbiotic mycelia. Morphological observations with a fluorescent stain revealed about 250,000 live bacteria inside each spore. The sequence for the small-subunit rRNA gene obtained for the BLOs from the spores was compared with those for representatives of the eubacterial lineages. Molecular phylogenetic analysis unambiguously showed that the endosymbiont of G. margarita was an rRNA group II pseudomanad (genus Burkholderia). PCR assays with specifically designed oligonucleotides were used to check that the sequence came from the BLOs. Successful amplification was obtained when templates from both the spores and the symbiotic mycelia were used. A band of the expected length was also obtained from spores of a Scutellospora sp. No bands were given by the negative controls. These findings indicate that mycorrhizal systems can include plant, fungal, and bacterial cells.

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