Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 119 (26) e2118852119 [2022-06-28; online 2022-06-21]
Carbon storage and cycling in boreal forests-the largest terrestrial carbon store-is moderated by complex interactions between trees and soil microorganisms. However, existing methods limit our ability to predict how changes in environmental conditions will alter these associations and the essential ecosystem services they provide. To address this, we developed a metatranscriptomic approach to analyze the impact of nutrient enrichment on Norway spruce fine roots and the community structure, function, and tree-microbe coordination of over 350 root-associated fungal species. In response to altered nutrient status, host trees redefined their relationship with the fungal community by reducing sugar efflux carriers and enhancing defense processes. This resulted in a profound restructuring of the fungal community and a collapse in functional coordination between the tree and the dominant Basidiomycete species, and an increase in functional coordination with versatile Ascomycete species. As such, there was a functional shift in community dominance from Basidiomycetes species, with important roles in enzymatically cycling recalcitrant carbon, to Ascomycete species that have melanized cell walls that are highly resistant to degradation. These changes were accompanied by prominent shifts in transcriptional coordination between over 60 predicted fungal effectors, with more than 5,000 Norway spruce transcripts, providing mechanistic insight into the complex molecular dialogue coordinating host trees and their fungal partners. The host-microbe dynamics captured by this study functionally inform how these complex and sensitive biological relationships may mediate the carbon storage potential of boreal soils under changing nutrient conditions.