Plant species in the subfamily Monotropoideae are mycoheterotrophs; they obtain fixed carbon from photosynthetic plants via a shared mycorrhizal network. Previous findings show mycoheterotrophic plants exhibit a high level of specificity to their mycorrhizal fungi. In this study we explore the association of mycorrhizal fungi and Monotropa uniflora (Mono tropoideae: Ericaceae) in eastern North America. We collected M. uniflora roots and nearby basidiomycete sporocarps from four sites within a 100 km(2) area in eastern Massachusetts. We analyzed DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) from the fungal nuclear ribosomal gene to assess the genetic diversity of fungi associating with M. uniflora roots. In this analysis we included 20 ITS sequences from Russula sporocarps collected nearby, 44 sequences of Russula or Lactarius species from GenBank and 12 GenBank sequences of fungi isolated from M. uniflora roots in previous studies. We found that all 56 sampled M. uniflora mycorrhizal fungi were members of the Russulaceae, confirming previous research. The analysis showed that most of the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi spreads across the genus Russula. ITS sequences of the mycorrhizal fungi consisted of 20 different phylotypes: 18 of the genus Russula and two of Lactafius, based on GenBank searches. Of the sampled plants, 57% associated with only three of the 20 mycorrhizal fungi detected in roots, and of the 25 sporocarp phylotypes collected three, were associated with M. uniflara. Furthermore the results indicate that the number of different fungal phylotypes associating with M. uniflora of eastern North America is higher than that of western North America but patterns of fungal species abundance might be similar between mycorrhizae from the two locations.
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