Physiological significance of network organization in fungi.
Simonin A., Palma-Guerrero J., Fricker M., Glass NL.
The evolution of multicellularity has occurred in diverse lineages and in multiple ways among eukaryotic species. For plants and fungi, multicellular forms are derived from ancestors that failed to separate following cell division, thus retaining cytoplasmic continuity between the daughter cells. In networked organisms, such as filamentous fungi, cytoplasmic continuity facilitates the long-distance transport of resources without the elaboration of a separate vascular system. Nutrient translocation in fungi is essential for nutrient cycling in ecosystems, mycorrhizal symbioses, virulence, and substrate utilization. It has been proposed that an interconnected mycelial network influences resource translocation, but the theory has not been empirically tested. Here we show, by using mutants that disrupt network formation in Neurospora crassa (Δso mutant, no fusion; ΔPrm-1 mutant, ∼50% fusion), that the translocation of labeled nutrients is adversely affected in homogeneous environments and is even more severely impacted in heterogeneous environments. We also show that the ability to share resources and genetic exchange between colonies (via hyphal fusion) is very limited in mature colonies, in contrast to in young colonies and germlings that readily share nutrients and genetic resources. The differences in genetic/resource sharing between young and mature colonies were associated with variations in colony architecture (hyphal differentiation/diameters, branching patterns, and angles). Thus, the ability to share resources and genetic material between colonies is developmentally regulated and is a function of the age of a colony. This study highlights the necessity of hyphal fusion for efficient nutrient translocation within an N. crassa colony but also shows that established N. crassa colonies do not share resources in a significant manner.