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Soil lead pollution modifies the structure of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities


The impact of lead (Pb) pollution on native communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) was assessed in soil samples from the surroundings of an abandoned Pb smelting factory. To consider the influence of host identity, bulk soil surrounding plant roots soil samples of predominant plant species (Sorghum halepense, Bidens pilosa, and Tagetes minuta) growing in Pb-polluted soils and in an uncontaminated site were selected. Molecular diversity was assessed by sequencing the 18S rDNA region with primers specific to AMF (AMV4.5NF/AMDGR) using Illumina MiSeq. A total of 115 virtual taxa (VT) of AMF were identified in this survey. Plant species did not affect AMF diversity patterns. However, soil Pb content was negatively correlated with VT richness per sample. Paraglomeraceae and Glomeraceae were the predominant families while Acaulosporaceae, Ambisporaceae, Archaeosporaceae, Claroideoglomeraceae, Diversisporaceae, and Gigasporaceae were less abundant. Acaulosporaceae and Glomeraceae were negatively affected by soil Pb, but Paraglomeraceae relative abundance increased under increasing soil Pb content. Overall, 26 indicator taxa were identified; four of them were previously reported in Pb-polluted soils (VT060; VT222; VT004; VT380); and five corresponded to cultured spores of Scutellospora castaneae (VT041), Diversispora spp. and Tricispora nevadensis (VT060), Diversispora epigaea (VT061), Glomus proliferum (VT099), and Gl. indicum (VT222). Even though AMF were present in Pb-polluted soils, community structure was strongly altered via the differential responses of taxonomic groups of AMF to Pb pollution. These taxon-specific differences in tolerance to soil Pb content should be considered for future phytoremediation strategies based on the selection and utilization of native Glomeromycota.

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Alejandra G. Becerra, Julieta Salazar, and Eugenia Menoyo are researchers of Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas (CONICET), Argentina.

We are very grateful to the Editor in Chief and two anonymous Reviewers for helping to improve the manuscript.


This work was partially supported by the Fondo para la Investigación Científica y Técnica (FONCyT, grant number PICT 2013-049, PICT 2013-2146).

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Correspondence to Alejandra G. Becerra.

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Faggioli, V., Menoyo, E., Geml, J. et al. Soil lead pollution modifies the structure of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities. Mycorrhiza 29, 363–373 (2019).

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  • Heavy metal
  • Soil pollution
  • 18S rDNA
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Biodiversity