Mycoplasma-related endobacteria within Mortierellomycotina fungi: Diversity, distribution and functional insights into their lifestyle

Alessandro Desirò, Zhen Hao, Julian A. Liber, Gian Maria Niccolò Benucci, David Lowry, Robert Roberson, Gregory Bonito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Bacterial interactions with animals and plants have been examined for over a century; by contrast, the study of bacterial-fungal interactions has received less attention. Bacteria interact with fungi in diverse ways, and endobacteria that reside inside fungal cells represent the most intimate interaction. The most significant bacterial endosymbionts that have been studied are associated with Mucoromycota and include two main groups: Burkholderia-related and Mycoplasma-related endobacteria (MRE). Examples of Burkholderia-related endobacteria have been reported in the three Mucoromycota subphyla. By contrast, MRE have only been identified in Glomeromycotina and Mucoromycotina. This study aims to understand whether MRE dwell in Mortierellomycotina and, if so, to determine their impact on the fungal host. We carried out a large-scale screening of 394 Mortierellomycotina strains and employed a combination of microscopy, molecular phylogeny, next-generation sequencing and qPCR. We detected MRE in 12 strains. These endosymbionts represent novel bacterial phylotypes and show evidence of recombination. Their presence in Mortierellomycotina demonstrates that MRE occur within fungi across Mucoromycota and they may have lived in their common ancestor. We cured the fungus of its endosymbionts with antibiotics and observed improved biomass production in isogenic lines lacking MRE, demonstrating that these endobacteria impose some fitness costs to their fungal host. Here we provided the first functional insights into the lifestyle of MRE. Our findings indicate that MRE may be antagonistic to their fungal hosts, and adapted to a non-lethal parasitic lifestyle in the mycelium of Mucoromycota. However, context-dependent adaptive benefits to their host at minimal cost cannot not be excluded. Finally, we conclude that Mortierellomycotina represent attractive model organisms for exploring interactions between MRE and fungi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1743-1757
Number of pages15
JournalISME Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Mycoplasma-related endobacteria within Mortierellomycotina fungi: Diversity, distribution and functional insights into their lifestyle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this