Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Leaf molecules as markers for mycorrhizal associations

28.08.2018

In nature, most plants establish mutual relationships with root fungi, so-called mycorrhiza. Mycorrhizal fungi facilitate the plants’ nutrient uptake and help them thrive under extreme conditions. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, discovered that certain leaf metabolites can be used as markers for mycorrhizal associations. The discovery of foliar markers provides scientists with an easy-to-conduct tool to screen large amounts of plants for mycorrhizal associations without having to destroy them. This new tool could contribute to breeding more efficient and stress-tolerant crop varieties for sustainable agriculture.

The relationship between plants and so-called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi is considered to be one of the most important factors for the evolution of terrestrial plants. More than 70 percent of the higher plants establish an association with these fungi, which are believed to be more than 400 million years old.


Metabolites (blue) in above-ground parts of a plant reveal a plant’s successful mutualism with mycorrhizal fungi (pink).

Ming Wang / Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

The mutualistic association allows the plant to better absorb nutrients, such as phosphate. Moreover, the symbiosis makes the plants more tolerant of biotic and abiotic stresses, such as insect attack, pathogens and drought.

For plant breeders, mycorrhizal fungi are very important because global phosphate resources are limited. However, until now analysis of the fungal association was only possible by excavating the plant roots. This is not only time-consuming; it also destroys the plant.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and their partners have now found substances that accumulate in the leaves when arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi successfully colonize plant roots. It has been known for a while that these substances, so-called blumenol C derivates, are produced in the roots exclusively after colonization with the mutualistic fungi. However, until now, all attempts to find a reliable and specific leaf marker have failed.

For their studies, the researchers analyzed the leaf substances with a highly sensitive technique and compared them to leaf compounds from plants that had not been able to establish fungal associations. “Through targeted and highly sensitive mass spectrometry, we were able to find mycorrhizal-specific changes also in above-ground parts of the plants,” Ming Wang from the Jena Max Planck Institute describes the unexpected findings.

Further experiments confirmed that the observed changes are related to root colonization mycorrhizal fungi. “The blumenols are most likely produced in the roots and then transported to other parts of the plants,” Martin Schäfer explains.

Most ecological interactions are highly species-specific. However, the scientists were able to show blumenol accumulation in the leaf tissues of other plant species, including important crop varieties and vegetables. The ubiquity of markers in the shoot across distant plant families is likely due to the long common history of mycorrhizal fungi and plants, suggesting that theses markers play an important role for plants colonized with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

Regardless of the function of these substances, the approach provides a robust and easy-to-apply tool which has the potential to fundamentally change the future of mycorrhizal research and plant breeding. Ian Baldwin, the head of the Department of Molecular Ecology, summarizes the new possibilities: “Our diagnostic marker for the colonization with arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi can be very useful for studying mycorrhizal associations, not only for breeding programs which rely on high-throughput screenings, but also for basic research into fundamental questions about the information transferred from plant-to-plant through fungal networks.”

Phosphate is a major component of fertilizers and therefore indispensable for agriculture and food production. However, phosphate deposits are limited and are often located in areas of conflict. Experts are already talking about a pending shortage of phosphate and thus fertilizers which could lead to a global food crisis. The new screening method could help breed plants that are more able to negotiate favorable relationships with mycorrhizal fungi so as to acquire phosphate more efficiently.

In a further step, the researchers want to elucidate the role of blumenol accumulation elicited by fungal colonization and find out whether blumenols may also function as signal molecules between plant roots and leaves. They also plan to use the new method to investigate fundamental questions concerning the communication between different plants of the same species and plants of different species over a joint fungal network.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr. Ian T. Baldwin, Tel. +49 3641 57 1100, E-Mail: baldwin@ice.mpg.de, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany

Ming Wang, Tel. +49 3641 57 1124, E-Mail: mwang@ice.mpg.de, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany

Originalpublikation:

Wang, M., Schäfer, M. Li, D., Halitschke, R., Dong, C., McGale, E., Paetz, C., Song, Y, Li, S., Dong, J., Heiling, S., Groten, K., Franken, P., Bitterlich, M., Harrison, M., Paszkowski, U., Baldwin, I. T. (2018). Blumenols as shoot markers for root symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, eLife, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.37093
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.37093

Angela Overmeyer | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
Further information:
http://www.ice.mpg.de/

Further reports about: Max-Planck-Institut ecology mycorrhizal mycorrhizal fungi phosphate Ökologie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Elusive compounds of greenhouse gas isolated by Warwick chemists
18.09.2019 | University of Warwick

nachricht Study gives clues to the origin of Huntington's disease, and a new way to find drugs
18.09.2019 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stroke patients relearning how to walk with peculiar shoe

18.09.2019 | Innovative Products

Statistical inference to mimic the operating manner of highly-experienced crystallographer

18.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists' design discovery doubles conductivity of indium oxide transparent coatings

18.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>