Soil bacteria use the extensively branched, thread-like structures of fungi to move around and access new food sources. In a new study, researchers have been able to demonstrate that these so-called fungal hyphae also form a hot spot for gene transfer between bacteria. In this way, fungi ensure high bacterial diversity in the soil – which can also be beneficial for the degradation of pollutants.
In their research, the UFZ scientists were also able to show that much greater gene transfer takes place between bacteria on the fungal highway than in a moist environment without fungal hyphae. Using computer models that calculate the frequency of gene transfer between bacteria on the hyphae, the researchers came to the same result. Wick continues: "Our study shows that fungal hyphae not only provide soil bacteria with an excellent infrastructure, but also a potential hot spot for bacterial horizontal gene transfer. This previously unknown aspect of fungus-bacteria interaction is an important step towards understanding the complex interactions between soil-dwelling microorganisms."
Fungi therefore may play a very important role in the highly complex soil habitat: in the spread of soil bacteria, their genetic adaptation and diversity, and ultimately also their evolution.
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Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle