Septate endophyte colonization and host responses of grasses and forbs native to a tallgrass prairie

TitleSeptate endophyte colonization and host responses of grasses and forbs native to a tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMandyam, KG, Fox, C, Jumpponen, A
Pagination109 -119
Accession NumberKNZ001456
KeywordsDark septate endophytes (DSE), Mutualism–parasitism continuum, Mycorrhizal dependency

Native tallgrass prairies support distinct dark septate endophyte (DSE) communities exemplified by Periconia macrospinosa and Microdochium sp. that were recently identified as common root symbionts in this system. Since these DSE fungi were repeatedly isolated from grasses and forbs, we aimed to test their abilities to colonize different hosts. One Microdochium and three Periconia strains were screened for colonization and growth responses using five native grasses and six forbs in an in vitro system. Previously published data for an additional grass (Andropogon gerardii) were included and reanalyzed. Presence of indicative inter- and intracellular structures (melanized hyphae, microsclerotia, and chlamydospores) demonstrated that all plant species were colonized by the DSE isolates albeit to varying degrees. Microscopic observations suggested that, compared to forbs, grasses were colonized to a greater degree in vitro. Host biomass responses varied among the host species. In broad comparisons, more grass species than forbs tended to respond positively to colonization, whereas more forb species tended to be non-responsive. Based on the suspected differences in the levels of colonization, we predicted that tallgrass prairie grasses would support greater DSE colonization than forbs in the field. A survey of field-collected roots from 15 native species supported this hypothesis. Our study supports the “broad host range” of DSE fungi, although the differences in the rates of colonization in the laboratory and in the field suggest a greater compatibility between grasses and DSE fungi. Furthermore, host responses to DSE range from mutualism to parasitism, suggesting a genotype-level interplay between the fungi and their hosts that determines the outcome of this symbiosis.