Sebacina vermifera: a unique root symbiont with vast agronomic potential

  • Prasun Ray
  • Kelly D. Craven


The Sebacinales belong to a taxonomically, ecologically, and physiologically diverse group of fungi in the Basidiomycota. While historically recognized as orchid mycorrhizae, recent DNA studies have brought to light both their pandemic distribution and the broad spectrum of mycorrhizal types they form. Indeed, ecological studies using molecular-based methods of detection have found Sebacinales fungi in field specimens of bryophytes (moss), pteridophytes (fern) and all families of herbaceous angiosperms (flowering plants) from temperate, subtropical and tropical regions. These natural host plants include, among others, liverworts, wheat, maize and Arabidopsis thaliana, the model plant traditionally viewed as non-mycorrhizal. The orchid mycorrhizal fungus Sebacina vermifera (MAFF 305830) was first isolated from the Australian orchid Cyrtostylis reniformis. Research performed with this strain clearly indicates its plant growth promoting abilities in a variety of plants, while demonstrating a lack of specificity that rivals or even surpasses that of arbuscular mycorrhizae. Indeed, these traits thus far appear to characterize a majority of strains belonging to the so-called “clade B” within the Sebacinales (recently re-classified as the Serendipitaceae), raising numerous basic research questions regarding plant–microbe signaling and the evolution of mycorrhizal symbioses. Further, given their proven beneficial impact on plant growth and their apparent but cryptic ubiquity, sebacinoid fungi should be considered as a previously hidden, but amenable and effective microbial tool for enhancing plant productivity and stress tolerance.


Sebacinavermifera Serendipitaceae Growth promotion 



Sebacina vermifera (MAFF-305830) used in this study was obtained from the National Institute of Agro-biological Sciences, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan. We thank Jin Nakashima for assistance with confocal microscopy; Yingqing Guo and Takako Ishiga for research assistance, Myoung-Hwan Chi and Kaustav Bandyopadhyay for assistance with photography. The original research presented here was supported by the Bioenergy Science Center, a US Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center, through the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All the authors in this manuscript declare no conflict of interests inherent to this submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Biology DivisionThe Samuel Roberts Noble FoundationArdmoreUSA

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