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Physiol Plant. 2010 Apr;138(4):440-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3054.2009.01332.x. Epub 2009 Nov 16.

Is plant endophyte-mediated defensive mutualism the result of oxidative stress protection?

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Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


In this review, we discuss the biology and beneficial effects of plant endophytes on host plants. The current explanation of endophyte protection (defensive mutualism) of host plants is based on the secondary metabolites (alkaloids) with antiherbivore properties produced by the symbiotic association between host plant and endophytes. We propose an alternative explanation of the mechanism of host protection through enhanced stress tolerance to oxidative stress. Several studies have demonstrated the production of different compounds (phenolics) with antioxidant capacity in endophyte-infected plants. Endophytes may also produce mannitol, other carbohydrates and small molecules (proline) with antioxidant capacity. We suggest that enhanced antioxidant production by symbiotic plants may be the result of the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by endophytes. In turn, symbiotic plants are protected from oxidative stress produced by plant diseases, droughts, heavy metals and other oxidative stressors by the production of antioxidants. We also discuss the lichen symbiosis and evaluate whether management of ROS also plays a role in this defensive mutualism. Future experiments are needed to evaluate the hypothesis that antioxidants are responsible for enhanced stress tolerance in endophyte-infected plants.

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