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Marriage of convenience with a fungus
Date:5/22/2014

This news release is available in German.

Thanks to a fungus, the medicinal plant ribwort plantain gains a higher concentration of the defensive compound catalpol. Biologists at Bielefeld University report this discovery in a study to be published this Thursday (22.5.2014) in the scientific journal 'Nature Communications'. The increase in catalpol gives the plant better protection against pests. In the study, the research team worked with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. These are known to colonize the roots of land plants. The plants benefit from this, because the fungus provides them with nutrients and minerals. However, are the impacts of this marriage of convenience with the fungus on plant chemistry equal for all plants? That is what the researchers wanted to find out.

The fungus is associated with more than four-fifths of all land plants. Up to now, it was not clear whether this symbiosis has the same effect on all of them. 'Previously, findings obtained with certain plant species were incorrectly generalized to other plant species. But it's not as simple as that,' says Professor Dr. Caroline Mller, who heads the Chemical Ecology work group at Bielefeld University's Faculty of Biology. Her team has discovered that not all plants react to the fungus in the same way. 'That's even the case when the plant species are closely related,' says Mller.

The scientists analysed five plant species and tested which substances to be found in the leaves increased or decreased when their roots were infected with the fungus. This allowed them to study the metabolism in the plants.

That the fungus increased the amount of catalpol in ribwort plantain was only one of the findings in the study. In bird's-eye speedwell, the fungus led to hardly any changes in the con
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Contact: Dr. Caroline Müller
caroline.mueller@uni-bielefeld.de
49-521-106-5524
Bielefeld University
Source:Eurekalert  

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