Absence of carbon transfer between Medicago truncatula plants linked by a mycorrhizal network, demonstrated in an experimental microcosm
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Carbon transfer between plants via a common extraradical network of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal hyphae has been investigated abundantly, but the results remain equivocal. We studied the transfer of carbon through this fungal network, from a Medicago truncatula donor plant to a receiver (1) M. truncatula plant growing under decreased light conditions and (2) M. truncatula seedling. Autotrophic plants were grown in bicompartmented Petri plates, with their root systems physically separated, but linked by the extraradical network of Glomus intraradices. A control Myc-/Nod- M. truncatula plant was inserted in the same compartment as the receiver plant. Following labeling of the donor plant with (CO2)-C-13, C-13 was recovered in the donor plant shoots and roots, in the extraradical mycelium and in the receiver plant roots. Fatty acid analysis of the receiver's roots further demonstrated C-13 enrichment in the fungal-specific lipids, while almost no label was detected in the plant-specific compounds. We conclude that carbon was transferred from the donor to the receiver plant via the AM fungal network, but that the transferred carbon remained within the intraradical AM fungal structures of the receiver's root and was not transferred to the receiver's plant tissues.