Nature communications

Mycelium-mediated transfer of water and nutrients stimulates bacterial activity in dry and oligotrophic environments.

PMID 28589950


Fungal-bacterial interactions are highly diverse and contribute to many ecosystem processes. Their emergence under common environmental stress scenarios however, remains elusive. Here we use a synthetic microbial ecosystem based on the germination of Bacillus subtilis spores to examine whether fungal and fungal-like (oomycete) mycelia reduce bacterial water and nutrient stress in an otherwise dry and nutrient-poor microhabitat. We find that the presence of mycelia enables the germination and subsequent growth of bacterial spores near the hyphae. Using a combination of time of flight- and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF- and nanoSIMS) coupled with stable isotope labelling, we link spore germination to hyphal transfer of water, carbon and nitrogen. Our study provides direct experimental evidence for the stimulation of bacterial activity by mycelial supply of scarce resources in dry and nutrient-free environments. We propose that mycelia may stimulate bacterial activity and thus contribute to sustaining ecosystem functioning in stressed habitats.