Small genetic differences between ericoid mycorrhizal fungi affect nitrogen uptake by Vaccinium

Gwen-Aelle Grelet, Andrew A Meharg, Elizabeth I Duff, Ian C Anderson, Ian J Alexander

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi have been shown to differ in their pattern of nitrogen (N) use in pure culture. Here, we investigate whether this functional variation is maintained in symbiosis using three ascomycetes from a clade not previously shown to include ericoid mycorrhizal taxa.

Vaccinium macrocarpon and Vaccinium vitis-idaea were inoculated with three fungal strains known to form coils in Vaccinium roots, which differed in their patterns of N use in liquid culture. N-15 was used to trace the uptake of NH4+-N, NO3--N and glutamine-N into shoots.

N-15 transfer differed among the three fungal strains, including two that had identical internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences, and was quantitatively related to fungal growth in liquid culture at low carbon availability.

These results demonstrate that functional differences among closely related ericoid mycorrhizal fungi are maintained in symbiosis with their hosts, and suggest that N transfer to plant shoots in ericoid mycorrhizas is under fungal control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-718
Number of pages11
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Early online date19 Nov 2008
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • ericoid mycorrhizal (ERM) fungi
  • functional diversity
  • heathlands
  • intraspecific variation
  • nitrogen (N) uptake
  • Rhizoscyphus ericae
  • Vaccinium spp
  • ribosomal dna-sequences
  • amino-acid-uptake
  • hymenoscyphus-ericae
  • phylogenetic classification
  • carbon availability
  • calluna-vulgaris
  • hair roots
  • ectomycorrhizal
  • growth
  • colonization


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