This study investigated whether arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) could take up phosphorus (P) from pools that are normally considered unavailable to plants. An aluminum (Al) resistant maize variety, inoculated with three species of Glomus or uninoculated, supplied with nutrient solution without P, was cultivated (90 days) in the A and B horizons of a P-fixing Oxisol. Plant uptake of P was calculated by assessing P content of shoots and roots and correcting for seed P. Soil P fractionation was done prior to and at the end of the experiment. Phosphorus in the A and B soil horizons (greater than or similar to 270 mg soil kg(-1) ) was differently distributed among the pools. Nonmycorrhizal plants did not acquire any P from the soil, and all P found in the plants was from the seeds. Mycorrhizal plants depleted the inorganic Resin-P and NaHCO3-P, used part of the inorganic NaOH-P, and used neither the recalcitrant inorganic P nor the organic P fractions. Changes in plant P content matched changes in the soil P pools. Mechanisms by which maize through the mycorrhizal association acquires P are discussed. In the cultivar used, the mechanisms to cope with P deficiency and Al excess are different.