, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 141–147 | Cite as

Morphological and physiological responses of the external mycelium of Rhizophagus intraradices to water stress

  • Ricardo Leyva-Morales
  • Mayra E. GavitoEmail author
  • S. Margarita Carrillo-Saucedo
Original Article


Most studies dealing with mycorrhizal associations and drought have focused on the plants, not on the fungi, and tolerance and adaptations of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi to cope with water stress are virtually unknown. This study was conducted to assess how water stress directly affects an AM fungus isolate, particularly through morphological and physiological changes in the external mycelium. We used two-compartment pots separated by mesh and an air gap that allowed us to apply water stress treatments only to the external mycelium. Clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) plants inoculated with Rhizophagus intraradices grew at high humidity until external mycorrhizal mycelium developed in the mycelium compartment. Then, we started three watering treatments: high (H, 70% of soil water holding capacity), low (L, 10%), and mixed watering (HLHL, 70–10–70-10%) only in the hyphal compartment. The HLHL treatment was rewetted once to 70% after 42 days. We measured total mycelium length, hyphal length in diameter categories, respiration activity, and protoplasm fragmentation 42 and 76 days after starting the treatments. Rhizophagus intraradices mycelium responded to water stress by reducing its length, maintaining larger diameter hyphae, and concentrating protoplasm activity in fragments in the HLHL and L treatments. In both water stress treatments, changes suggested a trade-off between avoiding desiccation and storing resources, and maintaining soil exploration and water uptake capacity.


Drought Hyphae Hyphal diameter Respiratory activity 



We thank Horacio Paz, Fernando Pineda, John Larsen and Miguel Nájera for sharing their experience and lab facilities. This research was supported by Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico (DGAPA) from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) through project PAPIIT-IN224010. MEG thanks DGAPA-PASPA for a sabbatical scholarship at the University of Copenhagen.

Author contributions

Conceived research: MEG, SMCS, RLM

Performed research: RLM, SMCS

Analyzed data: RLM, MEG

Wrote the manuscript: RLM, MEG


This research was funded by Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico (DGAPA) from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) through project PAPIIT-IN224010 and a sabbatical fellowship from PASPA at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, to MEG.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

572_2019_880_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.8 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 4893 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y SustentabilidadUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México-Campus MoreliaMoreliaMexico

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