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Two Medicago Truncatula Half-ABC Transporters Are Essential For Arbuscule Development In Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis

Quan Zhang, Laura A. Blaylock, Maria J. Harrison

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Abstract In the symbiotic association of plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, the fungal symbiont resides in the root cortical cells where it delivers mineral nutrients to its plant host through branched hyphae called arbuscules. Here, we report a Medicago truncatula mutant, stunted arbuscule (str), in which arbuscule development is impaired and AM symbiosis fails. In contrast with legume symbiosis mutants reported previously, str shows a wild-type nodulation phenotype. STR was identified by positional cloning and encodes a half-size ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter of a subfamily (ABCG) whose roles in plants are largely unknown. STR is a representative of a novel clade in the ABCG subfamily, and its orthologs are highly conserved throughout the vascular plants but absent from Arabidopsis thaliana. The STR clade is unusual in that it lacks the taxon-specific diversification that is typical of the ABCG gene family. This distinct phylogenetic profile enabled the identification of a second AM symbiosis-induced half-transporter, STR2. Silencing of STR2 by RNA interference results in a stunted arbuscule phenotype identical to that of str. STR and STR2 are coexpressed constitutively in the vascular tissue, and expression is induced in cortical cells containing arbuscules. STR heterodimerizes with STR2, and the resulting transporter is located in the peri-arbuscular membrane where its activity is required for arbuscule development and consequently a functional AM symbiosis.