Mycorrhizas are multifunctional symbiotic associations between fungi and the roots of plants. In most cases, as a result of the symbiosis, the fungi obtain the sugars required to enable their growth and reproduction. The plants, in turn, may gain increased supplies of nutrients, which are captured from soil by the fungi, as well as enhanced resistance to disease and toxicity.

Keywords: fungi; roots; symbiosis; nutrient supply; fitness

Figure 1.

Diagrammatic representation of the two categories and six types of mycorrhiza found in nature and described in the text. Fungal tissues are shown in red, plant tissues in black. In each type the diagnostic fungal structures are shown, the nature and directions of the main nutrient movements are indicated, and the main groups of fungi and plants involved are listed. C, carbon (sugars); N, nitrogen; P, phosphorus; K, potassium; Zn, zinc. The sizes of the letters indicate the relative importance of the transfer process within the mycorrhizal type.



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Further Reading

Allen MF (1991) Ecology of Mycorrhizae. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Allen MF (ed) (1992) Mycorrhizal Functioning. New York: Chapman & Hall.

Norris JR, Read DJ and Varma A (eds) (1992) Methods in Microbiology, vols 23 and 24. London: Academic Press.

Rasmussen HN (1995) Terrestrial Orchids: From Seed to Mycotrophic Plant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Read DJ, Lewis DH, Fitter AH and Alexander IA (eds) (1992) Mycorrhizas in Ecosystems. Wallingford: CAB International.

Smith SE and Read DJ (1997) Mycorrhizal Symbiosis, 2nd edn. London: Academic Press.

Varma A (1998) Mycorrhiza Manual. Heidelberg: Springer Lab Manual.

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Read, DJ(Apr 2001) Mycorrhiza. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000372]