Mycorrhizal fungi control phosphorus value in trade symbiosis with host roots when exposed to abrupt ‘crashes’ and ‘booms’ of resource availability

Anouk van't Padje*, Gijsbert D.A. Werner, E. Toby Kiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Biological market theory provides a conceptual framework to analyse trade strategies in symbiotic partnerships. A key prediction of biological market theory is that individuals can influence resource value – meaning the amount a partner is willing to pay for it – by mediating where and when it is traded. The arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis, characterised by roots and fungi trading phosphorus and carbon, shows many features of a biological market. However, it is unknown if or how fungi can control phosphorus value when exposed to abrupt changes in their trade environment. We mimicked an economic ‘crash’, manually severing part of the fungal network (Rhizophagus irregularis) to restrict resource access, and an economic ‘boom’ through phosphorus additions. We quantified trading strategies over a 3-wk period using a recently developed technique that allowed us to tag rock phosphate with fluorescing quantum dots of three different colours. We found that the fungus: compensated for resource loss in the ‘crash’ treatment by transferring phosphorus from alternative pools closer to the host root (Daucus carota); and stored the surplus nutrients in the ‘boom’ treatment until root demand increased. By mediating from where, when and how much phosphorus was transferred to the host, the fungus successfully controlled resource value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2933-2944
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume229
Issue number5
Early online date30 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • biological markets
  • quantum dots
  • symbiosis
  • trading strategies

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