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Anatomical relations among endophytic holoparasitic angiosperms, autotrophic host plants and mycorrhizal fungi: A novel tripartite interaction

de Vega, Clara, Arista, Montserrat, Ortiz, Pedro L., Talavera, Salvador
American journal of botany 2010 v.97 no.5 pp. 730-737
Cistaceae, Cytinus, cambium, cell growth, ecosystems, host plants, mycorrhizae, mycorrhizal fungi, nutrients, parasitic plants, roots, vascular tissues
Mycorrhizae are widespread mutualistic symbioses crucial for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. Not all plants associate with mycorrhizae; most parasitic plants have been suggested to be nonmycorrhizal because they have developed alternative strategies to obtain nutrients. In endophytic parasitic plants, whose vegetative bodies grow completely inside their mycorrhizal host roots, the opportunity for establishing a tripartite association seems evident, but information on these systems is lacking. In studying natural associations among the endophytic holoparasite Cytinus hypocistis, their Cistaceae host species, and associated mycorrhizal fungi, we found that mycorrhizae were associated with the hosts and the parasites, reaching high frequencies of colonization. In parasitic and host root tissues, mycorrhizal fungi spread in the parenchymatic cells by intracellular growth and formed hyphal coils and vesicles, while the cambium and the vascular tissues were never colonized. This report is the first on a tripartite association of an endophytic parasitic plant, its host, and mycorrhizae in natural conditions, representing a novel trophic interaction not previously reported within the angiosperms. Additional studies on the interactions occurring among these three players are needed because they may be crucial to our understanding of how this mutualistic-antagonistic system is functioning and evolving.