Structural features of mycorrhizal associations in two members of the Monotropoideae, Monotropa uniflora and Pterospora andromedea


Species in the subfamily Monotropoideae (family Ericaceae) are achlorophyllous and myco-heterotrophic. They have become highly specialized in that each plant species is associated with a limited number of fungal species which in turn are linked to autotrophic plants. This study provides an updated and comprehensive examination of the anatomical features of two species that have recently received attention with respect to their host-fungal specificity. Root systems of Monotropa uniflora and Pterospora andromedea collected from the field were characterized by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. All roots of both species were associated with fungi, each root having a well-developed mantle, paraepidermal Hartig net, and intracellular “fungal pegs” within epidermal cells. The mantle of M. uniflora was multi-layered and numerous outer mantle hyphae developed into cystidia of two distinct morphologies. Large calcium oxalate crystals were present, primarily on the mantle surface. The outer mantle of P. andromedea was more loosely organized, lacked cystidia, and had smaller plate-like as well as cylindrical crystals on the surface and between outer mantle hyphae. Fungal pegs in M. uniflora originated from inner mantle hyphae that penetrated the outer tangential wall of epidermal cells; in P. andromedea, these structures were initiated either from inner mantle hyphae or Hartig net hyphae and penetrated radial walls of epidermal cells. With respect to function, fungal pegs occurred frequently in both host species and, although presumed to be the sites of active nutrient exchange, no direct evidence exists to support this. Differences between these two monotropoid hosts, resulting from the mycorrhizal fungi with which each associates, are discussed.

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We thank Linda Tackaberry for her editorial skills, J. Catherall for allowing us to use Fig. 4, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided financial support to R. L. P. and H. B. M.

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Massicotte, H.B., Melville, L.H. & Peterson, R.L. Structural features of mycorrhizal associations in two members of the Monotropoideae, Monotropa uniflora and Pterospora andromedea . Mycorrhiza 15, 101–110 (2005).

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  • Monotropa
  • Pterospora
  • Anatomy
  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Calcium oxalate