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Nutrient demand and fungal access to resources control the carbon allocation to the symbiotic partners in tripartite interactions of Medicago truncatula

Kafle, Arjun, Garcia, Kevin, Wang, Xiurong, Pfeffer, Philip E., Strahan, Gary D., Bücking, Heike
Plant, cell and environment 2019 v.42 no.1 pp. 270-284
Medicago truncatula, carbon, host plants, legumes, mycorrhizal fungi, nitrogen, nutrient uptake, nutrients, phosphates, sucrose, symbionts, transporters
Legumes form tripartite interactions with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobia, and both root symbionts exchange nutrients against carbon from their host. The carbon costs of these interactions are substantial, but our current understanding of how the host controls its carbon allocation to individual root symbionts is limited. We examined nutrient uptake and carbon allocation in tripartite interactions of Medicago truncatula under different nutrient supply conditions, and when the fungal partner had access to nitrogen, and followed the gene expression of several plant transporters of the Sucrose Uptake Transporter (SUT) and Sugars Will Eventually be Exported Transporter (SWEET) family. Tripartite interactions led to synergistic growth responses and stimulated the phosphate and nitrogen uptake of the plant. Plant nutrient demand but also fungal access to nutrients played an important role for the carbon transport to different root symbionts, and the plant allocated more carbon to rhizobia under nitrogen demand, but more carbon to the fungal partner when nitrogen was available. These changes in carbon allocation were consistent with changes in the SUT and SWEET expression. Our study provides important insights into how the host plant controls its carbon allocation under different nutrient supply conditions and changes its carbon allocation to different root symbionts to maximize its symbiotic benefits.