Mycorrhizal fungi form mutualistic associations with the roots of most land plants and provide them with mineral nutrients from the soil in exchange for fixed carbon derived from photosynthesis. The common symbiosis pathway (CSP) is a conserved molecular signaling pathway in all plants capable of associating with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. It is required not only for arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis but also for rhizobia–legume and actinorhizal symbioses. Given its role in such diverse symbiotic associations, we hypothesized that the CSP also plays a role in ectomycorrhizal associations. We showed that the ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor produces an array of lipochitooligosaccharides (LCOs) that can trigger both root hair branching in legumes and, most importantly, calcium spiking in the host plant Populus in a CASTOR/POLLUX-dependent manner. Nonsulfated LCOs enhanced lateral root development in Populus in a calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CCaMK)-dependent manner, and sulfated LCOs enhanced the colonization of Populus by L. bicolor. Compared with the wild-type Populus, the colonization of CASTOR/POLLUX and CCaMK RNA interference lines by L. bicolor was reduced. Our work demonstrates that similar to other root symbioses, L. bicolor uses the CSP for the full establishment of its mutualistic association with Populus.
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