Plants transfer lipids to sustain colonization by mutualistic mycorrhizal and parasitic fungi

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Science  16 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6343, pp. 1172-1175
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9970

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Food for fungi

A wide variety of plants form symbiotic relationships in their roots with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi channel inorganic and micronutrients from soil to the plant, and the plant supplies the fungi with organic nutrients. Jiang et al. and Luginbuehl et al. found that as part of this exchange, the plant supplies lipids to its symbiotic fungi, thus providing the fungi with a robust source of carbon for their metabolic needs.

Science, this issue p. 1172; p. 1175


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi facilitate plant uptake of mineral nutrients and draw organic nutrients from the plant. Organic nutrients are thought to be supplied primarily in the form of sugars. Here we show that the AM fungus Rhizophagus irregularis is a fatty acid auxotroph and that fatty acids synthesized in the host plants are transferred to the fungus to sustain mycorrhizal colonization. The transfer is dependent on RAM2 (REQUIRED FOR ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZATION 2) and the ATP binding cassette transporter–mediated plant lipid export pathway. We further show that plant fatty acids can be transferred to the pathogenic fungus Golovinomyces cichoracerum and are required for colonization by pathogens. We suggest that the mutualistic mycorrhizal and pathogenic fungi similarly recruit the fatty acid biosynthesis program to facilitate host invasion.

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