Fungal endophytes of aquatic macrophytes: diverse host-generalists characterized by tissue preferences and geographic structure

Microb Ecol. 2014 May;67(4):735-47. doi: 10.1007/s00248-013-0324-y. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Most studies of endophytic symbionts have focused on terrestrial plants, neglecting the ecologically and economically important plants present in aquatic ecosystems. We evaluated the diversity, composition, host and tissue affiliations, and geographic structure of fungal endophytes associated with common aquatic plants in lentic waters in northern Arizona, USA. Endophytes were isolated in culture from roots and photosynthetic tissues during two growing seasons. A total of 226 isolates representing 60 putative species was recovered from 9,600 plant tissue segments. Although isolation frequency was low, endophytes were phylogenetically diverse and species-rich. Comparisons among the most thoroughly sampled species and reservoirs revealed that isolation frequency and diversity did not differ significantly between collection periods, among species, among reservoirs, or as a function of depth. However, community structure differed significantly among reservoirs and tissue types. Phylogenetic analyses of a focal genus (Penicillium) corroborated estimates of species boundaries and informed community analyses, highlighting clade- and genotype-level affiliations of aquatic endophytes with both sediment- and waterborne fungi, and endophytes of proximate terrestrial plants. Together these analyses provide a first quantitative examination of endophytic associations in roots and foliage of aquatic plants and can be used to optimize survey strategies for efficiently capturing fungal biodiversity at local and regional scales.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arizona
  • Biodiversity
  • Endophytes / classification
  • Endophytes / physiology*
  • Fungi / classification
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Geography
  • Lakes / microbiology
  • Plants / microbiology*
  • Symbiosis*