Isotopic evidence of biotrophy and unusual nitrogen nutrition in soil‐dwelling Hygrophoraceae

Hans Halbwachs, Gary L. Easton, Roland Bol, Erik A. Hobbie, Mark H. Garnett, Derek Peršoh, Liz Dixon, Nick J. Ostle, Peter Karasch, Gareth Griffith

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Several lines of evidence suggest that the agaricoid, non‐ectomycorrhizal members of the family Hygrophoraceae (waxcaps) are biotrophic with unusual nitrogen nutrition. However, methods for the axenic culture and lab‐based study of these organisms remain to be developed, so our current knowledge is limited to field‐based investigations. Addition of nitrogen, lime or organophosphate pesticide at an experimental field site (Sourhope) suppressed fruiting of waxcap basidiocarps. Furthermore, stable isotope natural abundance in basidiocarps were unusually high in 15N and low in 13C, the latter consistent with mycorrhizal nutritional status. Similar patterns were found in waxcap basidiocarps from diverse habitats across four continents. Additional data from 14C analysis of basidiocarps and 13C pulse label experiments suggest that these fungi are not saprotrophs but rather biotrophic endophytes, and possibly mycorrhizal. The consistently high but variable δ15N values (10‐20‰) of basidiocarps further indicate that N acquisition or processing differ from other fungi; we suggest that N may be derived from acquisition of N via soil fauna high in the food chain.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3573-3588
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2018


  • waxcap
  • biotrophy
  • mutualism
  • stable isotopes
  • 15N
  • nitrogen uptake
  • invertebrates
  • mycorrhiza


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