Contrasting soil fungal community responses to experimental nitrogen addition using the large subunit rRNA taxonomic marker and cellobiohydrolase I functional marker

Rebecca C Mueller, Monica M Balasch, Cheryl R Kuske
Molecular Ecology 2014, 23 (17): 4406-17
Human activities have resulted in increased nitrogen inputs into terrestrial ecosystems, but the impact of nitrogen on ecosystem function, such as nutrient cycling, will depend at least in part on the response of soil fungal communities. We examined the response of soil fungi to experimental nitrogen addition in a loblolly pine forest (North Carolina, USA) using a taxonomic marker (large subunit rDNA, LSU) and a functional marker involved in a critical step of cellulose degradation (cellobiohydrolase, cbhI) at five time points that spanned fourteen months. Sampling date had no impact on fungal community richness or composition for either gene. Based on the LSU, nitrogen addition led to increased fungal community richness, reduced relative abundance of fungi in the phylum Basidiomycota and altered community composition; however, similar shifts were not observed with cbhI. Fungal community dissimilarity of the LSU and cbhI genes was significantly correlated in the ambient plots, but not in nitrogen-amended plots, suggesting either functional redundancy of fungi with the cbhI gene or shifts in other functional groups in response to nitrogen addition. To determine whether sequence similarity of cbhI could be predicted based on taxonomic relatedness of fungi, we conducted a phylogenetic analysis of publically available cbhI sequences from known isolates and found that for a subset of isolates, similar cbhI genes were found within distantly related fungal taxa. Together, these findings suggest that taxonomic shifts in the total fungal community do not necessarily result in changes in the functional diversity of fungi.

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