Nitrogen transport in the orchid mycorrhizal symbiosis: further evidence for a mutualistic association

J.D.W. Dearnaley, D.D. Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Mycorrhizas are symbioses integral to the health of plant-based ecosystems (Smith & Read, 2008). In a typical mycorrhizal association, fungi in, or on, plant roots pass soil-acquired inorganic nutrients and water to the plant host. In return, the host transfers excess photosynthate to the fungus. Orchid mycorrhizas were considered to be unusual symbioses in that during initial colonization of the young, nonphotosynthetic host, the fungus was thought to provide both inorganic and organic nutrition to the plant and to receive nothing in return for its services. That is until a significant new study by Fochi et al., in this issue of New Phytologist (pp. 365–379), investigating expression of fungal and plant nitrogen (N) transport and assimilation genes in mycorrhizas formed between the fungus Tulasnella calospora and the photosynthetic orchid, Serapias vomeracea. The research suggests, for the first time, flow of nutrients back to the fungal partner from the nonphotosynthetic orchid host. Thus orchid mycorrhizas now appear to represent a true mutualism in both the early and mature stages of plant development (Cameron et al., 2006) and they thus join the physiological ranks of the more extensively studied arbuscular mycorrhizal and ectomycorrhizal associations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-12
Number of pages3
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • mutualism
  • nitrogen
  • orchid mycorrhizas
  • orchid to fungal nutrient transport
  • peloton
  • Serapias vomeracea
  • symbiosis
  • Tulasnella calospora


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