Fungal Endophytes

Gregory P. Cheplick

in Ecology

ISBN: 9780199830060
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Fungal Endophytes

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  • Applied Ecology (Environmental Science)
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Plant Ecology
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences


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Symbiotic interactions between diverse species are widespread in nature. Endophytes are microbes, such as fungi and bacteria, that live symbiotically within plant species. Although fungal hyphae can be readily observed with a microscope in the roots, stems, and leaves of their plant hosts, only in the past several decades have ecologists recognized their potential to alter host growth and physiology, internal biochemistry, reproduction, and population dynamics. The symbiosis between plant host and endophyte is often viewed as a mutualism, but extensive studies have revealed that the symbioses can range from parasitism, to commensalism, to mutualism. This is partly because whether the effects of endophytes on their hosts are positive or negative depends greatly on environmental conditions and the genotype of host and endophyte. In the grass family, endophytic fungi often produce alkaloids, secondary compounds that can defend the host plants from insect and vertebrate herbivores. However, the concept of defensive mutualism has been the subject of considerable debate and has not yet been accepted by all researchers. The effects of endophytes have the potential to cascade upward to higher trophic levels, such as primary and secondary consumers. In addition to the alterations they potentially cause in the evolutionary ecology of host populations, endophytic fungi can cause changes in community and ecosystem properties. This article will provide an introduction to the diverse literature on the ecology and coevolutionary biology of fungal endophytes and their host-plant populations.

Article.  12135 words. 

Subjects: Applied Ecology (Environmental Science) ; Ecology and Conservation ; Plant Ecology ; Zoology and Animal Sciences

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