Trees need fungi to absorb nutrients and water, but now the fungi themselves seem to be in control.
We know of course many fungi that are bad for plants, but in this case it is fungi that enter into a very positive collaboration with plants. To achieve this collaboration, it now appears that they are using the same strategy as their disgusting colleagues. They use small pieces of RNA to influence the genetic development of roots in plant cells. They deactivate the plant’s immune system so that cooperation can be established. If they don’t, the plant considers all fungi to be dangerous invaders.
Vincent Merckx, evolutionary biologist at Naturalis and not involved in the research itself, tells more about the ancient collaboration between plants and fungi, what we have learned from this research, and the big picture of fungal networks.
Here you will find the research: Ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus microcarpus codes for a microRNA involved in gene silencing between realms during symbiosis.
Also interesting: fast mushrooms struggle with small holes. Or this one: Plants alter neighbor’s genes.
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