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Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2005 Aug;8(4):450-6.

Symbiosis between grasses and asexual fungal endophytes.

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  • 1Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland. cbm@uwinst.unizh.ch


The symbiosis between vertically transmitted asexual endophytic fungi and grasses is common and generally considered to be mutualistic. Recent studies have accumulated evidence of negative effects of endophytes on plant fitness, prompting a debate on the true nature of the symbiosis. Genetic factors in each of the two partners show high variability and have a range of effects (from positive to negative) on plant fitness. In addition, interacting environmental factors might modify the nature of the symbiosis. Finally, competition and multitrophic interactions among grass consumers are influenced by endophytes, and the effects of plant neighbours or consumers could feedback to affect plant fitness. We propose a mutualism-parasitism continuum for the symbiosis between asexual endophytes and grasses, which is similar to the associations between plants and mycorrhizal fungi.

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