, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 85–96 | Cite as

Leaf litter species identity influences biochemical composition of ectomycorrhizal fungi

  • Nan Yang
  • Olaf Butenschoen
  • Rumana Rana
  • Lars Köhler
  • Dietrich Hertel
  • Christoph Leuschner
  • Stefan Scheu
  • Andrea Polle
  • Rodica PenaEmail author
Original Article


In forest ecosystems, ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi are important for plant growth and soil biogeochemical processes. The biochemical composition of ECM mycelium is an important fungal effect trait with consequences for its decomposition rate, and consequently on soil carbon pools and plant nutrition. Although the link between ECM fungi and leaf litter–released nutrients is well known, the response of ECM fungal biochemical composition to different leaf litter species remains poorly understood. To determine how leaf litter quality influences ECM fungi’s biochemical profiles, we planted young beech trees in an oak forest and replaced the natural leaf litter with that of European beech (Fagus sylvatica), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), or lime (Tilia cordata). We assessed the biochemical profiles of ECM root tips colonized by common fungal taxa in temperate forests (i.e., Cenococcum geophilum, Inocybe sp., and Lactarius subdulcis), using attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR). ECM fungal biochemical composition changed with leaf litter species. Changes were apparent in the infrared absorption bands assigned to functional groups of lipids, amides, and carbohydrates. C. geophilum and L. subdulcis exhibited large spectral differences corresponding to the initial pattern of leaf litter chemical composition between samples collected in the beech and ash leaf litter treatments. In contrast, Inocybe sp. was influenced by lime, but with no differences between samples from ash or beech leaf litter treatments. Although the spectral bands affected by leaf litter type differed among ECM fungi, they were mainly related to amides, indicating a dynamic response of the fungal proteome to soil nutritional changes. Overall, the results indicate that the biochemical response of ECM fungi to leaf litter species varies among ECM fungal species and suggests that the biochemical composition of ECM mycelium is a fungal response trait, sensitive to environmental changes such as shifts in leaf litter species.


Decomposition Temperate forests Cenococcum geophilum Inocybe sp. Lactarius subdulcis 



We thank Thomas Klein for his experienced and valuable technical assistance with DNA sequencing.

Funding information

The study was financially supported by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony and the “Niedersächsisches Vorab” as part of the Cluster of Excellence “Functional Biodiversity Research” and German Science Foundation (DFG, grant PE 2256/1-1). Nan Yang received financial support from the Natural Science Foundation (SBK2018043548) and Six Talent Peaks Program (TD-XYDXX-006) of Jiangsu Province of China, and the Scientific Research Foundation for Returned Scholars (GXL2018011), Nanjing Forestry University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

572_2018_876_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (1 mb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 1036 kb)
572_2018_876_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (66 kb)
Figure S1 Experimental plots (1.80 × 1.20 m). Thirty young beech trees were planted in each plot. (JPG 65 kb)
572_2018_876_Fig5_ESM.png (389 kb)
Figure S2

Wavenumber loadings on PC1 and PC2 of Lactarius subdulcis (a), Cenococcum geophilum (b), and Inocybe sp. (c). The peaks were selected using an automated method based on local maxima. The numbers represent the wavenumber of each peak; n = 3. (PNG 388 kb)

572_2018_876_MOESM3_ESM.tif (3.6 mb)
High Resolution Image (TIF 3717 kb)
572_2018_876_Fig6_ESM.png (99 kb)
Figure S3

Hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) dendrogram of ATR-FTIR spectra of leaf litter collected before (a) and after one-year of decomposition (b). The spectra were clustered by Ward’s algorithm applied to the wavenumbers 4000–600 cm−1; n = 4. (PNG 99 kb)

572_2018_876_MOESM4_ESM.tif (3.3 mb)
High Resolution Image (TIF 3418 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest Botany and Tree PhysiologyUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany
  2. 2.College of Biology and the EnvironmentNanjing Forestry UniversityNanjingChina
  3. 3.J. F. Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and AnthropologyUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany
  4. 4.Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre BiK-FFrankfurt am MainGermany
  5. 5.Forestry and Wood Technology DisciplineKhulna UniversityKhulnaBangladesh
  6. 6.Plant Ecology and Ecosystem ResearchUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany
  7. 7.Centre of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land UseUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany

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