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Opportunistic mycoses are fungal infections that are either common in all environments or part of the normal biota. They affect mainly individuals who have a compromised immune system. Patients in the late stages of AIDS suffer from opportunistic mycoses, such as Pneumocystis , which can be life threatening. The yeast Candida spp., which is a common member of the natural biota, can grow unchecked if the pH, the immune defenses, or the normal population of bacteria is altered, causing yeast infections of the vagina or mouth (oral thrush).

Fungi may even take on a predatory lifestyle. In soil environments that are poor in nitrogen, some fungi resort to predation of nematodes (small roundworms). Species of Arthrobotrys fungi have a number of mechanisms to trap nematodes. For example, they have constricting rings within their network of hyphae. The rings swell when the nematode touches it and closes around the body of the nematode, thus trapping it. The fungus extends specialized hyphae that can penetrate the body of the worm and slowly digest the hapless prey.

Beneficial fungi

Fungi play a crucial role in the balance of ecosystems. They colonize most habitats on Earth, preferring dark, moist conditions. They can thrive in seemingly hostile environments, such as the tundra, thanks to a most successful symbiosis with photosynthetic organisms, like lichens. Fungi are not obvious in the way that large animals or tall trees are. Yet, like bacteria, they are major decomposers of nature. With their versatile metabolism, fungi break down organic matter that is insoluble and would not be recycled otherwise.

Importance to ecosystems

Food webs would be incomplete without organisms that decompose organic matter and fungi are key participants in this process. Decomposition allows for cycling of nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus back into the environment so they are available to living things, rather than being trapped in dead organisms. Fungi are particularly important because they have evolved enzymes to break down cellulose and lignin, components of plant cell walls that few other organisms are able to digest, releasing their carbon content.

Fungi are also involved in ecologically important coevolved symbioses, both mutually beneficial and pathogenic with organisms from the other kingdoms. Mycorrhiza , a term combining the Greek roots myco meaning fungus and rhizo meaning root, refers to the association between vascular plant roots and their symbiotic fungi. Somewhere between 80–90 percent of all plant species have mycorrhizal partners. In a mycorrhizal association, the fungal mycelia use their extensive network of hyphae and large surface area in contact with the soil to channel water and minerals from the soil into the plant. In exchange, the plant supplies the products of photosynthesis to fuel the metabolism of the fungus. Ectomycorrhizae (“outside” mycorrhiza) depend on fungi enveloping the roots in a sheath (called a mantle) and a net of hyphae that extends into the roots between cells. In a second type, the Glomeromycota fungi form arbuscular mycorrhiza. In these mycorrhiza, the fungi form arbuscles, a specialized highly branched hypha, which penetrate root cells and are the sites of the metabolic exchanges between the fungus and the host plant. Orchids rely on a third type of mycorrhiza. Orchids form small seeds without much storage to sustain germination and growth. Their seeds will not germinate without a mycorrhizal partner (usually Basidiomycota). After nutrients in the seed are depleted, fungal symbionts support the growth of the orchid by providing necessary carbohydrates and minerals. Some orchids continue to be mycorrhizal throughout their lifecycle.

Questions & Answers

What are eukaryotic cells?
Nwosueke Reply
where does the cell get energy for active transport processes?
A'Kaysion Reply
what is synapsis
Adepoju Reply
how many turns are required to make a molecule of sucrose in Calvin cycle
Amina Reply
why Calvin cycle occurs in stroma
Amina
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide?
Maryam Reply
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide? For the purpose of breaking down the food
dil
what is allele
uzoka Reply
process of protein synthesis
SANTOSH Reply
what is cell
Zulf Reply
what is cytoplasm
uzoka Reply
cytoplasm is fluid of cell.
Deepak
how many major types of Cloning
Saeed Reply
two
amir
two
Zulf
comparative anatomy of gymnosperms?
Meenakshi Reply
anatomy of gymnosperms
Meenakshi
how genes are regulated
Ainjue Reply
what is storage of glycogen
Student Reply
glycogen is a protein content
Najeem
how many times breathing a day normally does a person have
Vernalyn Reply
100
Aadil
on average 18000 times a day when resting.
gagan
the -10 and -35 regions of prokaryotic promoters are called consensus sequences because
Michelle Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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