DOI: 10.1128/mbio.00956-23 ISSN:

Fungal organic acid uptake of mineral-derived K is dependent on distance from carbon hotspot

Arunima Bhattacharjee, Dusan Velickovic, Jocelyn A. Richardson, Sneha P. Couvillion, Gregory W. Vandergrift, Odeta Qafoku, Michael J. Taylor, Janet K. Jansson, Kirsten Hofmockel, Christopher R. Anderton
  • Virology
  • Microbiology


Fungal mineral weathering regulates the bioavailability of inorganic nutrients from mineral surfaces to organic matter and increase the bioavailable fraction of nutrients. Such weathering strategies are classified as biomechanical or biochemical. In the case of fungal uptake of mineral nutrients through biochemical weathering, it is widely hypothesized that uptake of inorganic nutrients occurs through organic acid chelation, but such processes have not been directly visualized. This is in part due to challenges in probing the complex and heterogeneous soil environment. Here, using an epoxy-based, mineral-doped soil micromodel platform, which emulates soil mineralogy and porosity, we visualize the molecular mechanisms of mineral weathering. Mass spectrometry imaging revealed differences in the distribution of fungal exudates, citric acid, and tartaric acid on the soil micromodels in presence of minerals. Citric acid was detected closer to the nutrient-rich inoculation point, whereas tartaric acid was highly abundant away from inoculation point. This suggested that the organic acid exuded by the fungi depended on the proximity from the carbon-rich organic substrate at the point of inoculation. Using a combination of X-ray fluorescence and X-ray near edge structure analysis, we identified citric acid- and tartaric acid-bound K within fungal hyphae networks grown in the presence of minerals. Combined, our results provide direct evidence that fungi uptake and transport mineral derived nutrient organic acid chelation. The results of this study provided unprecedented visualization of fungal uptake and transport of K + , while resolving the indirect weathering mechanism of fungal K uptake from mineral interfaces.


Fungal species are foundational members of soil ecosystems with vital contributions that support interspecies resource translocation. The minute details of these biogeochemical processes are poorly investigated. Here, we addressed this knowledge gap by probing fungal growth in a novel mineral-doped soil micromodel platform using spatially-resolved imaging methodologies. We found that fungi uptake K from K-rich minerals using organic acids exuded in a distance-dependent manner from a carbon-rich hotspot. While identification of specific mechanisms within soil remains challenging, our findings demonstrate the significance of reduced complexity platforms such as the mineral-doped micromodel in probing biogeochemical processes. These findings provide visualization into hyphal uptake and transport of mineral-derived nutrients in a resource-limited environment.

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