Bacterial endosymbionts protect beneficial soil fungus from nematode attack.
*equal contribution #corresponding author
Soil is a complex and competitive environment, forcing its inhabitants to develop strategies against competitors, predators, and pathogens. Identifying and understanding the molecular mechanisms has translational value for medicine, ecology, and agriculture. In this study, we show that a member of important soil-dwelling fungi (Mortierella) forms a tight alliance with toxin-producing bacteria (Mycoavidus) that live within the fungal hyphae and protect their host from nematode attack. This discovery is relevant since Mortierella species correlate with healthy soils and are used as plant growth–promoting fungi in agriculture. Unraveling an ecological role for fungal endosymbionts in Mortierella, our results contribute to the understanding of a mainspring in fungal–endobacterial symbioses and open the possibility for the development of new biocontrol agents.