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Visualising lipids in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis

Rice roots being colonised by fungi

A versatile new technique to visualise lipids in arbuscules has been outlined in a new research paper by Crop Science Centre scientists. Lipids are used by plants to nourish arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and are therefore an important part of the plant-fungi symbiotic relationship.

The lead author, Hector Sommerfield, said “Some genes have been assumed to be pivotal for symbiotic lipid biosynthesis and transfer to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Now, thanks to this technique it is possible to visualise lipids to scrutinise the function of these genes".

This technique could support research into many of the genes believed to be related to plant-fungi symbiosis. The method proved to be easy to implement in five different plant species. In fact, this technique has already enabled the first visualisation of lipids in a linage of plants with a gene changed to impair symbiotic lipid dynamics.

This method involves treating roots with a combination of a fluorescent red chitin dye and blue lipid dye, which can be seen on the accompanying image. This enables the treated roots to be viewed in a confocal microscope.

A link to the paper can be found here