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Ecology and Evolution of the Grass-Endophyte Symbiosis$
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Gregory P. Cheplick and Stanley Faeth

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195308082

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195308082.001.0001

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Effects of Endophytes on Their Hosts

Effects of Endophytes on Their Hosts

(p.18) 2 Effects of Endophytes on Their Hosts
Ecology and Evolution of the Grass-Endophyte Symbiosis

Gregory P. Cheplick

Stanley H. Faeth

Oxford University Press

In symbiotic associations, there is great variation in ecological outcomes shaped by the underlying coevolutionary process. Endophytic fungi of grasses have been shown to affect host growth and reproduction, photosynthetic physiology, abiotic stress tolerance, and competitive ability. Although positive effects of endophytes on host growth in several grass-endophyte systems have been described, many studies have been done mostly on a limited set of species growing in controlled environments. Effects of endophytes on host sexual reproduction range from parasitic castration (e.g., sexual Epichloë endophytes which cause choke disease) to improved seed production (e.g. asexual Neotyphodium endophytes in tall fescue). Vertical transmission within seeds occurs in asexual endophytes and may favor the evolution of mutualistic symbioses. Most reports of improved tolerance of abiotic stresses, such as low soil water and/or minerals shown by infected hosts, have involved tall fescue or perennial ryegrass. The grass-endophyte interaction could represent an adaptive symbiosis in relation to at least some environmental stresses. Effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on grass-endophyte interactions have not been clearly demonstrated. Although past workers have sometimes shown that endophytes increased the competitive ability of their hosts, recent analyses have not supported the contention that endophytes significantly improve host competitive ability.

Keywords:   abiotic stress, competitive ability, drought, fungal endophytes, growth, Neotyphodium, minerals, photosynthesis, reproduction

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