Molecular analyses of plant-microbe interactions have become common place in the last two decades. Although there are philosophical considerations about the application of a reductionist approach to some areas of research, the collaborative interface (e.g. molecular ecology) can provide specialised insight to the generalist, whilst adding broader relevance to the research of the specialist. However, the expense of this discipline has tended to restrict research to work on model host-microbe interactions. Molecular techniques were embraced early on by a few pioneers from the field of mycorrhizal research. Despite some high profile research, the number of molecular mycorrhizal publications has only recently begun to escalate. However the extent of literature now has exceeded the capacity for a comprehensive short review. In this paper we will briefly discuss the use of model species for molecular research and explore the range of questions that are being addressed using molecular techniques, whilst minimising use of specific jargon, to maximise the usefulness of this review to a non specialist audience. Our primary focus is on arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis, to complement the papers by Tagu et al., Podila et al. and Chalot et al. (all this volume), who have addressed aspects of research on ectomycorrhizal symbioses. Here we include specific citations from research groups around the world, along with reference to more detailed reviews, to provide a taste of the current excitement in this fundamental and rapidly evolving research field.