A trade-off between space exploration and mobilization of organic phosphorus through associated microbiomes enables niche differentiation of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on the same root

Zhou, Jiachao; Kuyper, Thomas W.; Feng, Gu


Ecology seeks to explain species coexistence, but experimental tests of mechanisms for coexistence are difficult to conduct. We synthesized an arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal community with three fungal species that differed in their capacity of foraging for orthophosphate (P) due to differences in soil exploration. We tested whether AM fungal species-specific hyphosphere bacterial assemblages recruited by hyphal exudates enabled differentiation among the fungi in the capacity of mobilizing soil organic P (Po). We found that the less efficient space explorer, Gigaspora margarita, obtained less 13C from the plant, whereas it had higher efficiencies in Po mobilization and alkaline phosphatase (AlPase) production per unit C than the two efficient space explorers, Rhizophagusintraradices and Funneliformis mosseae. Each AM fungus was associated with a distinct alp gene harboring bacterial assemblage, and the alp gene abundance and Po preference of the microbiome associated with the less efficient space explorer were higher than those of the two other species. We conclude that the traits of AM fungal associated bacterial consortia cause niche differentiation. The trade-off between foraging ability and the ability to recruit effective Po mobilizing microbiomes is a mechanism that allows co-existence of AM fungal species in a single plant root and surrounding soil habitat.