“Sex War Under Truffle Soils ”

The article published in New Phytologist on the underground distribution of mating types in truffle strains has caused enough press activity in past months. The new coverage grew minute to minute … It’s amazing how this fungus is causing great stir. It is also good that this works reaches a wider audience. Here is the press release: “They are one of the most popular dishes in the culinary world, but now scientists have discovered that strains of black truffles are involved in a war for sexual reproduction in the ground. The research, published in the journal New Phytologist just when the truffle season started in Europe 2010-2011, represents a breakthrough in understanding the reproductive aspects of this fungus, which may be the basis for future crop improvement.
The team, led by Dr. Francesco Paolocci and Dr. Andrea Rubini of the CNR of Italy, the Institute of Plant Genetics of Perugia and by Dr. Francis Martin INRA Nancy, conducted research on strategy reproduction of the prized black truffle, Tuber melanosporum, which grows naturally in southern Europe. During truffle season, between late fall and winter, these fruiting bodies can grow to 7 cm in diameter, and typically weigh up to 100 grams, with a value that is often measured in hundreds of euros.
The fruit is the crucial part of the life cycle of the truffle, which occurs from the mycelium of the fungus interacts with the host plants by colonizing their roots. However, the process that makes this fungus pass from his vegetative state (mycelium and mycorrhizal development) to state their reproductive status (the same nose. Fruit of the fungus) is still unknown.
“It was commonly believed that truffles, like other fungi, are homotallic, meaning that they reproduce without a partner (processes of self-fertilization). It was also believed that the truffle was based only on the environment and nutrition, but we know this is not true. ”
The use of information provided by the project to sequence the genome of Tuber melanosporum. directed by Martin of INRA, France and the molecular analysis performed by the Italian team, now shows that truffles need crossing, which means that they act both genders and sexual reproduction of the fungus occurs between strains with different mating types (opposite sex).

The team studied samples from wild strains of black truffle in a natural truffle orchard near Spoleto in central Italy. The study showed that the strains of the opposite sex are not evenly distributed in the areas of potentially productive land.

The team studied the dynamics of strains of truffle in host plants inoculated with truffle spores and grown in a greenhouse, which showed that there is a competition between different strains of truffle to colonize plant roots, even under controlled conditions.

The fruiting season traditionally begins in late fall, but sexual reproduction is thought to occur in spring. The Italian team proved that at the end of the fruiting season of truffles, are in the ground next to host trees, fungal strains of the opposite sex also showed that strains of fungus present in host trees, colonized, act as mother pair in the reproductive process.

These findings represent a major break in understanding the reproductive strategies of the truffle and the dynamics of truffle strains under field conditions and host plants produced artificially to boost production.

“These results are of great practical use to optimize and increase the production of truffles in the fields around the world”. “It is of great interest to artificial truffle plantations promote a balance of strains of both sexual types. Future research will determine whether the distribution of mating types is a factor that really limits the production of truffles under field conditions.

More info in:
Andrea Rubini, Beatrice Belfiori, Claudia Riccioni, Sergio Arcioni, Francis Martin, Francesco Paolocci. Tuber melanosporum: mating type distribution in a natural plantation and dynamics of strains of different mating types on the roots of nursery-inoculated host plants. New Phytologist, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03493.x

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