Grasses can be infected simultaneously by endophytic fungi and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that endophyte-associated drought resistance of a native grass was affected by an AM fungus. In a greenhouse experiment, we compared the performance of endophyte-infected (EI) and endophyte-free (EF) Leymus chinensis, a dominant species native to the Inner Mongolia steppe, under altered water and AM fungus availability. The results showed that endophyte infection significantly increased drought resistance of the host grass, but the beneficial effects were reduced by AM fungus inoculation. In the mycorrhizal-non-inoculated (MF) treatment, EI plants accumulated significantly more biomass, had greater proline and total phenolic concentration, and lower malondialdehyde concentration than EF plants. In the mycorrhizal-inoculation (MI) treatment, however, no significant difference occurred in either growth or physiological characters measured between EI and EF plants. AM fungus inoculation enhanced drought resistance of EF plants but had no significant effect on drought resistance of EI plants, thus AM fungus inoculation reduced the difference between EI and EF plants. Our findings highlight the importance of interactions among multiple microorganisms for plant performance under drought stress.
Keywords: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; Drought; Endophytic fungi; Inner Mongolian steppe; Leymus chinensis.