Chapter 41 : Epichloë Endophytes: Models of an Ecological Strategy

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This chapter considers our current understanding of the epichloae, for which the recently sequenced Epichloë festucae is considered a model. The epichloae are in the family within the order Hypocreales. While it was not the first recognition of an epichloë endophyte, the discovery of an introduced tall fescue population by University of Kentucky agronomists in the early 1930s led to the development of the (in)famously popular cultivar Kentucky-31. A flourish of studies comparing endophyte-infected (E+) and endophyte-free (E-) conspecific grasses in the 1980s and 1990s established a list of host fitness enhancements attributable to the endophyte: herbivore resistance, disease resistance, competitive ability, drought tolerance, heat tolerance, and tolerance to nutrient deficits. Researchers conducted a study to determine and compare the impacts of E+ and E- tall fescue on a natural grass community. The implications of this study reveal the concern that when introduced symbiota with pronounced fitness enhancements become established in nature, they run the risk of dominating communities and driving out some native plant species. While much of the understanding of ergot alkaloid biosynthesis has come from the characterization of the genes in the spp., disruption and characterization of key pathway genes such as , , and have also been performed for epichloë endophytes. Most of the and endophytes screened to date are able to synthesize the alkaloid peramine.

Citation: Young C, Wilkinson H. 2010. Epichloë Endophytes: Models of an Ecological Strategy, p 660-675. In Borkovich K, Ebbole D (ed), Cellular and Molecular Biology of Filamentous Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816636.ch41

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Reactive Oxygen Species
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Important features of the epichloë endophyte ecological strategy. The evolution of this group of closely related fungi has been studied intensively, revealing a major host shift from animals to plants, interspecific hybridization as a prevalent feature for asexual species, and concomitant cladogenesis among these fungi and their grass hosts within the Pooideae. The agricultural and ecological roles of some endophytes have been especially well studied, thus providing a sense of the potential impacts of these symbiota at a variety of ecological scales. The frequently cited “symbiotic continuum” for the species within this group represents a combination of both types of transmission strategies and the costs and benefits for the host and endophyte in a given environment.

Citation: Young C, Wilkinson H. 2010. Epichloë Endophytes: Models of an Ecological Strategy, p 660-675. In Borkovich K, Ebbole D (ed), Cellular and Molecular Biology of Filamentous Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816636.ch41
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Image of FIGURE 2

Bioprotective alkaloids and associated gene clusters of the epichloae. When possible, gene clusters from or closely related asexual species are shown. Black arrows represent genes (drawn to scale), with the abbreviated gene name above. Repetitive elements are not shown. All clusters are drawn to scale with respect to each other. The following accession numbers were used: , AY259837, AF368420, and EF125025; , EF012265 and EF012267; , DQ443465 and AY742903; , AB205145.

Citation: Young C, Wilkinson H. 2010. Epichloë Endophytes: Models of an Ecological Strategy, p 660-675. In Borkovich K, Ebbole D (ed), Cellular and Molecular Biology of Filamentous Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816636.ch41
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Image of FIGURE 3

Life cycle diagram for the epichloae. The asexual spp. exhibit only the cycle on the left (vertical transmission). Some of the sexual spp. exhibit only the cycle illustrated on the right (horizontal transmission), while others, including , exhibit the cycles shown on both sides of the figure on different tillers of the same plant (mixed transmission). Figure adapted from .

Citation: Young C, Wilkinson H. 2010. Epichloë Endophytes: Models of an Ecological Strategy, p 660-675. In Borkovich K, Ebbole D (ed), Cellular and Molecular Biology of Filamentous Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816636.ch41
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Characterization of epichloae

Citation: Young C, Wilkinson H. 2010. Epichloë Endophytes: Models of an Ecological Strategy, p 660-675. In Borkovich K, Ebbole D (ed), Cellular and Molecular Biology of Filamentous Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816636.ch41

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