Functional Consequences of Nutrient Translocation in Mycelial Fungi

Graeme Boswell, Jacobs Helen, Fordyce A. Davidson, Geoffrey M. Gadd, Ritz Karl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fungi are of fundamental importance for plant and microbial nutrition with primary roles in decomposition and nutrient recycling. They also have great potential for use in areas of biotechnology such as bioremediation of organic and inorganic pollutants and biocontrol of plant pathogens. In all of these contexts, environmental heterogeneity has a strong influence on growth and function. A large class of fungi overcome the difficulties encountered in such environments by the mechanism of translocation which results in the internal redistribution of nutrients within the fungal mycelium. In this paper we use a combination of experimental techniques and mathematical modelling to examine fungal growth in general, and in particular, translocation in the common soil saprophytic fungus Rhizoctonia solani. A detailed mathematical model is presented where translocation is considered to have both diffusive and metabolically-driven components. A calibration experiment provided the necessary parameter values. Growth experiments were compared with model solutions and thus we provide strong evidence that diffusion is the dominant mechanism for translocation in homogeneous environments. In heterogeneous environments, we conclude that diffusion is still vital for exploration, i.e. the expansion of the fungal network into the surrounding area. However, we also conclude that localised resources may be utilised faster if energy is invested, i.e. when exploitation of the fungal microenvironment is enhanced by metabolically-driven translocation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459 - 477
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2002


  • filamentous fungi
  • rhizoctonia solani
  • translocation
  • mathematical model
  • environmental heterogeneity


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