An ancestral signalling pathway is conserved in intracellular symbioses-forming plant lineages.

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Plants are the foundation of terrestrial ecosystems, and their colonization of land was probably facilitated by mutualistic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Following this founding event, plant diversification has led to the emergence of a tremendous diversity of mutualistic symbioses with microorganisms, ranging from extracellular associations to the most intimate intracellular associations, where fungal or bacterial symbionts are hosted inside plant cells. Here, through analysis of 271 transcriptomes and 116 plant genomes spanning the entire land-plant diversity, we demonstrate that a common symbiosis signalling pathway co-evolved with intracellular endosymbioses, from the ancestral arbuscular mycorrhiza to the more recent ericoid and orchid mycorrhizae in angiosperms and ericoid-like associations of bryophytes. By contrast, species forming exclusively extracellular symbioses, such as ectomycorrhizae, and those forming associations with cyanobacteria, have lost this signalling pathway. This work unifies intracellular symbioses, revealing conservation in their evolution across 450 million yr of plant diversification.