Symbioses of grasses with seedborne fungal endophytes

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2004;55:315-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.55.031903.141735.


Grasses (family Poaceae) and fungi of the family Clavicipitaceae have a long history of symbiosis ranging in a continuum from mutualisms to antagonisms. This continuum is particularly evident among symbioses involving the fungal genus Epichloe (asexual forms = Neotyphodium spp.). In the more mutualistic symbiota, the epichloe endophytes are vertically transmitted via host seeds, and in the more antagonistic symbiota they spread contagiously and suppress host seed set. The endophytes gain shelter, nutrition, and dissemination via host propagules, and can contribute an array of host fitness enhancements including protection against insect and vertebrate herbivores and root nematodes, enhancements of drought tolerance and nutrient status, and improved growth particularly of the root. In some systems, such as the tall fescue N. coenophialum symbioses, the plant may depend on the endophyte under many natural conditions. Recent advances in endophyte molecular biology promise to shed light on the mechanisms of the symbioses and host benefits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Insecta
  • Nematoda
  • Pest Control, Biological / methods
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology
  • Poaceae / metabolism
  • Poaceae / microbiology
  • Poaceae / physiology*
  • Seeds / microbiology
  • Seeds / physiology
  • Symbiosis*
  • Vertebrates