Regular Paper

Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 122, Issue 5, pp 485-496

First online:

Phylogenetic affinity of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbionts in Psilotum nudum

  • Jennifer L. WintherAffiliated withDepartment of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University Email author 
  • , William E. FriedmanAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado

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Many lineages of land plants (from lycopsids to angiosperms) have non-photosynthetic life cycle phases that involve obligate mycoheterotrophic arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) associations where the plant host gains organic carbon through glomalean symbionts. Our goal was to isolate and phylogenetically identify the AM fungi associated with both the autotrophic and underground mycoheterotrophic life cycle phases of Psilotum nudum. Phylogenetic analyses recovered 11 fungal phylotypes in four diverse clades of Glomus A that form AM associations with P. nudum mycoheterotrophic gametophytes and autotrophic sporophytes, and angiosperm roots found in the same greenhouse pots. The correspondence of identities of AM symbionts in P. nudum sporophytes, gametophytes and neighboring angiosperms provides compelling evidence that photosynthetic heterospecific and conspecific plants can serve as the ultimate sources of fixed carbon for mycoheterotrophic gametophytes of P. nudum, and that the transfer of carbon occurs via shared fungal networks. Moreover, broader phylogenetic analyses suggest greenhouse Psilotum populations, like field-surveyed populations of mycoheterotrophic plants, form AM associations with restricted clades of Glomus A. The phylogenetic affinities and distribution of Glomus A symbionts indicate that P. nudum greenhouse populations have the potential to be exploited as an experimental system to further study the physiology, ecology and evolution of mycoheterotrophic AM associations.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal associations Psilotum nudum Mycoheterotrophy Glomus