Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonize nonfixing root nodules of several legume species
Scheublin, T.R.; van der Heijden, M.G.A.
New Phytologist 172(4): 732-738
Many legumes form tripartite symbiotic associations with rhizobia and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Rhizobia are located in root nodules and provide the plant with fixed atmospheric nitrogen, while AMF colonize plant roots and deliver several essential nutrients to the plant. Recent studies showed that AMF are also associated with root nodules. This might point to interactions between AMF and rhizobia inside root nodules. Here, we test whether AMF colonize root nodules in various plant-AMF combinations. We also test whether nodules that are colonized by AMF fix nitrogen. Using microscopy, we observed that AMF colonized the root nodules of three different legume species. The AMF colonization of the nodules ranged from 5% to 74% and depended on plant species, AMF identity and nutrient availability. However, AMF-colonized nodules were not active, that is, they did not fix nitrogen. The results suggest that AMF colonize old senescent nodules after nitrogen fixation has stopped, although it is also possible that AMF colonization of nodules inhibits nitrogen fixation.