Mycorrhizal bioremediation

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Mycorrhizal amelioration of heavy metals or pollutants is a process by which mycorrhizal fungi in a mutualistic relationship with plants can sequester toxic compounds from the environment, as a form of bioremediation.[1][2][3]

Mycorrhizae-plant partners[edit]

These symbiotic relationships are generally between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizae in the Glomeromycota clade of fungi.[3][4] Other types of fungi have been documented. For example, there is a case where zinc phytoextraction from willows was increased after the Basidiomycete fungus Paxillus involutus was inoculated in the soil.[5]

Mechanisms of the symbiosis[edit]

The mycorrhizae allow the plants a greater tolerance of heavy metals in part due to the increase in biomass that they help them achieve. The fungi also stimulate uptake of heavy metals (such as manganese and cadmium) with the enzymes and organic acids (such as acetic acid and malic acid) that they excrete into their surroundings in order to digest them.[5][6]

How mycorrhizae help plants tolerate heavy metals[edit]

The fungi can prevent heavy metals from traveling past the roots of the plant.[6] They can also store heavy metals in their vacuoles. However, in some cases the fungi do not decrease the uptake of heavy metals by plants but increase their tolerance. In some cases this is by increasing the overall biomass of the plant so that there is a lower concentration of the metals. They can also modify the response of the plant to heavy metals at the level of plant transcription and translation.[3][7]

Colonization of barren soil[edit]

Mycorrhizae remain functional underground following extreme conditions such as after a forest fire. Researchers believe that this allows them to obtain minerals and nutrients that are released during a fire before they are leached out of the soil. This likely increases the ability of a quick recovery after forest fires.[8]

Serpentine soils are in part characterized by a low calcium-to-magnesium ratio. Studies indicate that arbuscular mycorrhiza help plants increase their magnesium uptake in soils with low amounts of magnesium. However, plants in serpentine soils inoculated with fungus either showed no effect in magnesium concentration or decreased magnesium uptake.[9]

Resistance to toxicity[edit]

Studies show that mycorrhizal symbionts of poplar seedlings are capable of preventing heavy metals reaching vulnerable parts of the plant by keeping the toxins in the rhizosphere.[10] Another study demonstrates that Arctostaphylos uva-ursi plants in symbiotic relationships were more resistant to toxins because the fungi helped the plants grow below toxic layers of soil.[11]

Applied in bioremediation[edit]

In China's provinces Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangxi, rocky desertification is expanding and is not well controlled. This area is characterized by soil depletion, soil erosion and droughts. It is very difficult for plants to grow in this region and it mostly filled with drought-resistant plants, lithophytes and calciphilopteris plants. Morus alba commonly known as a mulberry is a drought resistant tree which can tolerate barren soils. It has been found that mulberry inoculated with arbuscular mycorrhiza has increased survivability in karst desert areas and therefore an increased rate of soil improvement and reduced erosion.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hildebrandt, Ulrich; Regvar, Marjana; Bothe, Hermann (January 2007). "Arbuscular mycorrhiza and heavy metal tolerance". Phytochemistry. 68 (1): 139–146. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2006.09.023. 
  2. ^ Luo, Zhi-Bin; Wu, Chenhan; Zhang, Chao; Li, Hong; Lipka, Ulrike; Polle, Andrea. "The role of ectomycorrhizas in heavy metal stress tolerance of host plants". Environmental and Experimental Botany. 108: 47–62. doi:10.1016/j.envexpbot.2013.10.018. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Ferrol, Nuria; Tamayo, Elisabeth; Vargas, Paola (December 2016). "The heavy metal paradox in arbuscular mycorrhizas: from mechanisms to biotechnological applications". Journal of Experimental Botany. 67 (22): 6253–6265. doi:10.1093/jxb/erw403. 
  4. ^ Vangronsveld, J; Colpaert, JV; Van Tichelen, KK (1996). "Reclamation of a bare industrial area contaminated by non-ferrous metals: physico-chemical and biological evaluation of the durability of soil treatment and revegetation". Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987). 94 (2): 131–40. PMID 15093499. 
  5. ^ a b SHEORAN, Vimla; SHEORAN, Attar Singh; POONIA, Poonam (April 2016). "Factors Affecting Phytoextraction: A Review". Pedosphere. 26 (2): 148–166. doi:10.1016/S1002-0160(15)60032-7. 
  6. ^ a b Rajkumar, M.; Sandhya, S.; Prasad, M.N.V.; Freitas, H. (November 2012). "Perspectives of plant-associated microbes in heavy metal phytoremediation". Biotechnology Advances. 30 (6): 1562–1574. doi:10.1016/j.biotechadv.2012.04.011. 
  7. ^ Meharg, Andrew A. (November 2003). "The Mechanistic Basis of Interactions Between Mycorrhizal Associations and Toxic Metal Cations". Mycological Research. 107 (11): 1253–1265 – via EBSCOhost. 
  8. ^ Buchholz, Kenneth; Motto, Harry (1981). "Abundances and Vertical Distributions of Mycorrhizae in Plains and Barrens Forest Soils from the New Jersey Pine Barrens". Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 108 (2): 268–271. doi:10.2307/2484905. JSTOR 2484905. 
  9. ^ Doubková, Pavla; Suda, Jan; Sudová, Radka (2011-08-01). "Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis on serpentine soils: the effect of native fungal communities on different Knautia arvensis ecotypes". Plant and Soil. 345 (1-2): 325–338. doi:10.1007/s11104-011-0785-z. ISSN 0032-079X. 
  10. ^ "Mycorrhizae Confer Aluminum Resistance to Tulip-Poplar Seedlings". Canadian Journal of Forest Research-Revue Canadienne De Recherche Forestiere. 31 (4): 694–702. n.d. – via EBSCOhost. 
  11. ^ Salemaa, Maija; Monni, Satu. "Copper resistance of the evergreen dwarf shrub Arctostaphylos uva-ursi: an experimental exposure". Environmental Pollution. 126 (3): 435–443. doi:10.1016/s0269-7491(03)00235-5. 
  12. ^ Xing, Dan; et al. (November 2014). "Research of Ecological Restoration of Mycorrhizal Mulberry in Karst Rocky Desertification Area". Agricultural Science & Technology. 15 (11): 1998–2002 – via EBSCOhost.