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A mycorrhiza (Greek for fungus roots coined by Frank, 1885[1]; typically seen in the plural forms mycorrhizae or mycorrhizas) is a symbiotic (occasionally weakly pathogenic) association between a fungus and the roots of a plant.[2] In a mycorrhizal association the fungus may colonize the roots of a host plant either intracellularly or extracellularly.

This mutualistic association provides the fungus with relatively constant and direct access to mono- or dimeric carbohydrates, such as glucose and sucrose produced by the plant in photosynthesis.[3] The carbohydrates are translocated from their source location (usually leaves) to the root tissues and then to the fungal partners. In return, the plant gains the use of the mycelium's very large surface area to absorb water and mineral nutrients from the soil, thus improving the mineral absorption capabilities of the plant roots.[4] Plant roots alone may be incapable of taking up phosphate ions that are immobilized, for example, in soils with a basic pH. The mycelium of the mycorrhizal fungus can however access these phosphorus sources, and make them available to the plants they colonize.[5] The mechanisms of increased absorption are both physical and chemical. Mycorrhizal mycelia are much smaller in diameter than the smallest root, and can explore a greater volume of soil, providing a larger surface area for absorption. Also, the cell membrane chemistry of fungi is different from that of plants. Mycorrhizae are especially beneficial for the plant partner in nutrient-poor soils.

Mycorrhizal plants are often more resistant to diseases, such as those caused by microbial soil-borne pathogens, and are also more resistant to the effects of drought. These effects are perhaps due to the improved water and mineral uptake in mycorrhizal plants.

Mycorrhizae form a mutualistic relationship with the roots of most plant species (although only a small proportion of all species have been examined, 95% of all plant families are predominantly mycorrhizal).[6]

Plants grown in sterile soils and growth media often perform poorly without the addition of spores or hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi to colonise the plant roots and aid in the uptake of soil mineral nutrients. The absence of mycorrhizal fungi can also slow plant growth in early succession or on degraded landscapes.[7]

Occurrence of mycorrhizal associations

At around 400 million years old, the Rhynie chert contains the earliest fossil assemblage yielding plants preserved in sufficient detail to detect mycorrhizae - and they are indeed observed in the stems of Aglaophyton major.[8]

Mycorrhizae are present in 92% of plant families (80% of species)[9], with arbuscular mycorrhizae being the ancestral and predominant form,[9] and indeed the most prevalent symbiotic association found in plants at all.[3] The structure of arbuscular mycorrhizae has been highly conserved since their first appearance in the fossil record,[8] with both the development of ectomycorrhizae, and the loss of mycorrhizae, evolving convergently on multiple occasions.[9]

Types of mycorrhiza

File:Wheat field.jpg
Arbuscular mycorrhizal wheat
File:Grib skov.jpg
Ectomycorrhizal beech
An ericoid mycorrhizal fungus isolated from Woollsia pungens.[10]

Mycorrhizas are commonly divided into ectomycorrhizas and endomycorrhizas. The two groups are differentiated by the fact that the hyphae of ectomycorrhizal fungi do not penetrate individual cells within the root, while the hyphae of endomycorrhizal fungi penetrate the cell wall and invaginate the cell membrane.


Endomycorrhiza are variable and have been further classified as arbuscular, ericoid, arbutoid, monotropoid, and orchid mycorrhizae [11]. Arbuscular mycorrhizas, or AM (formerly known as vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas, or VAM), are mycorrhizas whose hyphae enter into the plant cells, producing structures that are either balloon-like (vesicles) or dichotomously-branching invaginations (arbuscules). The fungal hyphae do not in fact penetrate the protoplast (i.e. the interior of the cell), but invaginate the cell membrane. The structure of the arbuscules greatly increases the contact surface area between the hypha and the cell cytoplasm to facilitate the transfer of nutrients between them.

Arbuscular mycorrhizae are formed only by fungi in the division Glomeromycota. Fossil evidence[8] and DNA sequence analysis[12] suggest that this mutualism appeared 400-460 million years ago, when the first plants were colonizing land. Arbuscular mycorrhizas are found in 85% of all plant families, and occur in many crop species.[9] The hyphae of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi produce the glycoprotein glomalin, which may be one of the major stores of carbon in the soil. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi have (possibly) been asexual for many millions of years and, unusually, individuals can contain many genetically different nuclei (a phenomenon called heterokaryosis).[13]

Many plants in the order Ericales form ericoid mycorrhizas, while some members of the Ericales form arbutoid and monotropoid mycorrhizas. All orchids are mycoheterotrophic at some stage during their lifecycle and form orchid mycorrhiza with a range of basidiomycete fungi.


Ectomycorrhizas, or EcM, are typically formed between the roots of woody plants and fungi belonging to the Basidiomycota, Ascomycota, and Zygomycota. Ectomycorrhizas consist of a hyphal sheath, or mantle, covering the root tip and a hartig net of hyphae surrounding the plant cells within the root cortex. In some cases the hyphae may also penetrate the plant cells, in which case the mycorrhiza is called an ectendomycorrhiza. Outside the root, the fungal mycelium forms an extensive network within the soil and leaf litter.

Ectomycorrhizas are found in around 10% of plant families, including members of the birch, dipterocarp, eucalyptus, oak, pine and rose families.[9]

The ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor has been found to lure and kill springtails to obtain nitrogen, some of which may then be transferred to the mycorrhizal host plant. In a study by Klironomos and Hart, Eastern White Pine inoculated with L. bicolor was able to derive up to 25% of its nitrogen from springtails.[14][15]

See also


  1. AB Frank (1885) Über die auf Würzelsymbiose beruhende Ehrnährung gewisser Bäum durch unterirdische Pilze. Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesselschaft 3, 128-145.
  2. Kirk, P.M., P.F. Cannon, J.C. David & J. Stalpers 2001. Ainsworth and Bisby’s Dictionary of the Fungi. 9th ed. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harrison MJ (2005). "Signaling in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis". Annu Rev Microbiol. 59: 19–42. doi:10.1146/annurev.micro.58.030603.123749. PMID 16153162.
  4. Selosse MA, Richard F, He X, Simard SW (2006). "Mycorrhizal networks: des liaisons dangereuses?". Trends Ecol Evol. 21: 621–628. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2006.07.003. PMID 16843567.
  5. Li H, Smith SE, Holloway RE, Zhu Y, Smith FA. (2006). "Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi contribute to phosphorus uptake by wheat grown in a phosphorus-fixing soil even in the absence of positive growth responses". New Phytol. 172: 536–543. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2006.01846.x. PMID 17083683.
  6. Trappe, J.M. (1987) Phylogenetic and ecologic aspects of mycotrophy in the angiosperms from an evolutionary standpoint. Ecophysiology of VA Mycorrhizal Plants, G.R. Safir (EDS), CRC Press, Florida
  7. Jeffries, P; Gianinazzi, S; Perotto, S; Turnau, K; Barea, J-M (2003). "The contribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in sustainable maintenance of plant health and soil fertility". Biol. Fertility Soils. 37: 1–16.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Remy W, Taylor TN, Hass H, Kerp H (1994). "4 hundred million year old vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae". Proc. National Academy of Sciences. 91: 11841–11843. PMID 11607500.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Wang, B. (2006). "Phylogenetic distribution and evolution of mycorrhizas in land plants" (PDF). Mycorrhiza. 16 (5): 299–363. doi:10.1007/s00572-005-0033-6. Retrieved 2008-01-21. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  10. Midgley, DJ, Chambers, SM & Cairney, JWG. 2002. Spatial distribution of fungal endophyte genotypes in a Woollsia pungens (Ericaceae) root system. Australian Journal of Botany 50, 559-565
  11. Peterson, R.L., H.B. Massicotte and L.H. Melville (2004) Mycorrhizas: anatomy and cell biology. National Research Council Research Press. [1]
  12. L Simon, J Bousquet, RC Lévesque, M. Lalonde (1993) Origin and diversification of endomycorrhizal fungi and coincidence with vascular land plants. Nature, 363, 67-69
  13. Hijri M & Sanders IR. 2005. Low gene copy number shows that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi inherit genetically different nuclei Nature 433:160-163
  14. Fungi kill insects and feed host plants
  15. Klironomos, J. N. and Hart, M. M. 2001. Animal nitrogen swap for plant carbon. Nature, 410: 651-652.

External links

ar:جذريات فطرية be-x-old:Мікарыза cs:Mykorhiza da:Mykorrhiza de:Mykorrhiza eo:Mikorizo eu:Mikorriza is:Svepprót it:Micorriza he:מיקוריזה lt:Mikorizė hu:Mikorrhiza nl:Mycorrhiza nn:Mykorrhiza sk:Mykoríza fi:Sienijuuri sv:Mykorrhiza