All plants maintain associations with fungal endophytes and epibionts. These associations between fungi and plants are generally a cryptic phenomenon in nature. Fungal endophytes may inhabit tissues of roots, stems, branches, twigs, bark, leaves, petioles, flowers, fruit, and seeds, including xylem of all available plant organs. These fungi have been found to impact on the ecology of plants, frequently enhancing capacity of host plants to survive and resist environmental and biological stresses through mechanisms that are only partially understood. In this project we will explore endophtes and their secondary metabolite products in a broad range of plants that have not yet been explored for these symbionts; and we will evaluate the roles of reactive oxygen species and secondary metabolites in the hypha-plant cell interactions in the clavicipitacious endophyte-grass symbiosis. Endophytes frequently appear to function as defensive mutualists to their grass hosts helping plants to survive drought, insect attack or pathogen infections. Much of the work of this proposal is targeted at identifying the defensive secondary metabolites and evaluating their utility as biorationals for agricultural applications in insect or microbial pathogen control and for medicinal applications. We will also seek to develop a more complete understanding of the ecology and physiological interactions of endosymbiotic fungi and their host plants. This research will directly impact New Jersey stakeholders in that our model system for examining the endophyte-plant interaction are the grass endophytes that are present in many turfgrasses. One of the key ecological outcomes of endophytes in turfgrasses is enhanced disease resistance. We will seek to understand the mechanism of disease resistance enhancement. Because the turfgrass industry is important in New Jersey and the United States this research has the potential to develop information that may be useful in producing more disease resistant turf cultivars and have a positive impact in the industry.
Agriculture; Biological; Biological Models; Cell Communication; Disease Resistance; Droughts; Ecology; endophytic fungi; Flowers; Fruit; fungus; Health; Human; Hyphae; Industry; Infection; Insecta; microbial; Nature; New Jersey; Organ; Outcome; pathogen; Performance; Physiological; plant ecology; plant fungi; Plant Roots; Plants; Poaceae; Reactive Oxygen Species; Research; Role; Seeds; Source; stem; Stress; Symbiosis; Tissues; United States; Work