Fungal endophytes in a 400-million-yr-old land plant: infection pathways, spatial distribution, and host responses

New Phytol. 2007;174(3):648-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2007.02008.x.


The Early Devonian Rhynie chert has been critical in documenting early land plant-fungal interactions. However, complex associations involving several fungi that enter into qualitatively different relationships with a single host plant and even interact with one another have not yet been detailed. Here, we studied petrographic thin sections of the Rhynie chert plant Nothia aphylla. Three fungal endophytes (co)occur in prostrate axes of this plant: narrow hyphae producing clusters of small spores; large spherical spores/zoosporangia; and wide aseptate hyphae that form intercellular vesicles in the cortex. Host responses on attack include bulging of infected rhizoids, formation of encasement layers around intracellular hyphae, and separation of infected from uninfected tissues by secondarily thickened cell walls. A complex simultaneous interaction of N. aphylla with three endophytic fungi was discovered. The host responses indicate that some of the mechanisms causing host responses in extant plants were in place 400 million yr ago. Anatomical and life history features of N. aphylla suggest that this plant may have been particularly susceptible to colonization by fungi.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem
  • Fossils*
  • Fungi / classification
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Cells
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plants / classification
  • Plants / microbiology*