Researchers at the University of Ottawa have discovered that plants can control the genetics of organisms with which they live in symbiosis. SciTechDaily publishes research results and interviews with the author.

The discovery of scientists could not only have a significant impact on all terrestrial ecosystems but also make agriculture more sustainable.

Scientists have discovered an amazing genetic regulation between plants and their microbial symbionts, known as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF are obligate plant symbionts that grow in the roots of plants and help their hosts grow better and be more resistant to environmental factors.

The genetics of AMF has long been unknown; while typical cells carry one nucleus, AMF cells carry thousands of nuclei, which can be genetically diverse. How these nuclei interact with each other and whether plants can control their relative numbers remained a mystery.

New research provides insight into this unique genetic condition. First, the scientists found that the host plant symbiont affects the relative abundance of thousands of coexisting nuclei carried by their fungal symbionts. In addition, biologists have found evidence that coexisting nuclei with different genetic backgrounds interact rather than compete with each other. This potentially increases the growth benefits for both the fungi and their plant partners.