New Phytologist 233(2) , 966-982 ( 2022)
The pathways regulated in ectomycorrhizal (EcM) plant hosts during the establishment of symbiosis are not as well understood when compared to the functional stages of this mutualistic interaction. Our study used the EcM host Eucalyptus grandis to elucidate symbiosis-regulated pathways across the three phases of this interaction. Using a combination of RNA sequencing and metabolomics we studied both stage-specific and core responses of E. grandis during colonization by Pisolithus microcarpus. Using exogenous manipulation of the abscisic acid (ABA), we studied the role of this pathway during symbiosis establishment. Despite the mutualistic nature of this symbiosis, a large number of disease signalling TIR-NBS-LRR genes were induced. The transcriptional regulation in E. grandis was found to be dynamic across colonization with a small core of genes consistently regulated at all stages. Genes associated to the carotenoid/ABA pathway were found within this core and ABA concentrations increased during fungal integration into the root. Supplementation of ABA led to improved accommodation of P. microcarpus into E. grandis roots. The carotenoid pathway is a core response of an EcM host to its symbiont and highlights the need to understand the role of the stress hormone ABA in controlling host-EcM fungal interactions.