Open Access Open Badges Research article

Transcriptional analysis of Pinus sylvestris roots challenged with the ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor

Gregory Heller12*, Aleksandra Adomas12, Guosheng Li1, Jason Osborne3, Len van Zyl2, Ron Sederoff2, Roger D Finlay1, Jan Stenlid1 and Frederick O Asiegbu124

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agriculture, Uppsala, Sweden

2 Forest Biotechnology Group, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA

3 Department of Statistics, NCSU, Raleigh, NC, USA

4 Department of Forest Ecology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-19

Published: 25 February 2008



Symbiotic ectomycorrhizal associations of fungi with forest trees play important and economically significant roles in the nutrition, growth and health of boreal forest trees, as well as in nutrient cycling. The ecology and physiology of ectomycorrhizal associations with Pinus sp are very well documented but very little is known about the molecular mechanisms behind these mutualistic interactions with gymnosperms as compared to angiosperms.


Using a micro-array approach, the relative abundance of 2109 EST transcripts during interaction of Pinus sylvestris roots with the ectomycorrhizal fungus was profiled. The results reveal significant differential expression of a total of 236 ESTs, 96 transcripts differentially abundant after 1 day of physical contact with the fungus, 134 transcripts after 5 days and only 6 after 15 days at early stages of mantle formation on emerging lateral roots. A subset of cell wall modification and stress related genes was further assessed by quantitative reverse transcription PCR at late stages of mycorrhizal development coinciding with Hartig net formation. The results reveal down regulation of gene transcripts involved in general defence mechanism (e.g. antimicrobial peptide) as well as those involved in cell wall modification (e.g. glycine rich protein, xyloglucan endo transglycosylase).


This study constitutes the first attempt to characterize the transcriptome of the plant partner in the Pinus sylvestris Laccaria bicolor model system. We identified 236 ESTs which are potentially important for molecular regulation of a functional symbiotic association in conifer host. The results highlight similarities with other studies based on angiosperm model systems, nevertheless some differences were found in the timing and spatial scale of gene regulation during ectomycorrhiza development in gymnosperms. The present study has identified a number of potentially important molecular events responsible for the initiation and regulation of biochemical, physiological and morphological changes during development of a fully functional symbiosis that are relevant for gymnosperm hosts.