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Department of Plant Sciences

‘Smoke detector’ enables plant-fungal partnerships

In terrestrial ecosystems, plants take up phosphate predominantly via association with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). The resulting symbioses contribute to global carbon and mineral nutrient cycles, because AMF provide mineral nutrients to the plant and receive carbohydrates in return.

Colonization of plant roots by AMF requires reciprocal recognition initiated by diffusible molecules before fungal attachment to the root surface and root penetration via hyphopodia. Research in the Paszkowski lab has revealed that a plant protein known to detect growth-promoting compounds in smoke from burning vegetation has a much older and broader role: recognising initial signals sent from the beneficial soil fungi that deliver nutrients directly into plant cells.

Gutjahr C, Gobbato E, Choi J, Riemann M, Johnston MG, Summers W, Carbonnel S, Mansfield C, Yang S-Y, Nadal M, Acosta I, Takano M, Jiao W-B, Schneeberger K, Kelly KA, Paszkowski U. (2015) Rice perception of symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi requires the karrikin receptor complex. Science. Vol. 350 no. 6267 pp. 1521-152.