Role of odour compounds in the attraction of gamete vectors in endophytic Epichloë fungi

New Phytol. 2008;178(2):401-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2007.02347.x. Epub 2008 Jan 10.


Grass-infecting Epichloë endophytes (Ascomycota, Calvicipitaceae) depend on Botanophila flies for gamete transfer, while fly larvae feed and develop on the fertilized fungal fruiting structures. Flies are known to be attracted by volatile signals, but the exact mechanisms of chemical communication and the degree of specialization are unknown. Headspace samples collected from five different Epichloë species were analysed with respect to physiologically active substances using Botanophila flies. In field bioassays using synthetic compounds, their attractiveness and the specificity of the Epichloë-Botanophila attraction were investigated. The identification of a new natural product, methyl (Z)-3-methyldodec-2-enoate, attracting Botanophila flies is reported here, and chokol K is confirmed as an attractive compound. Different blends of the two compounds attracted Botanophila flies under field conditions, but the three fly taxa present at the study site showed no preference for specific blends of volatiles. Chemical communication in the Epichloë-Botanophila system relies on a few specific compounds, known as a communication system with 'private channels'. Although ratios of emitted compounds vary in different Epichloë species, this seems not to lead to specialized attraction of Botanophila flies. Low selective pressure for specialization may have maintained a more generalist interaction between fungi and flies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascomycota / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Germ Cells / physiology*
  • Odorants*
  • Poaceae / microbiology
  • Reproduction / physiology