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Plant Signal Behav. 2011 Feb;6(2):175-91. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

Unraveling the role of fungal symbionts in plant abiotic stress tolerance.

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Department of Botany, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, India.


Fungal symbionts have been found associated with every plant studied in natural ecosystem, where they colonize and reside entirely in the internal tissues of their host plant or partially. Fungal endophytes can express/form a range of different lifestyle/relationships with different host including symbiotic, mutualistic, commensalistic and parasitic in response to host genotype and environmental factors. In mutualistic association fungal endophyte can enhance growth, increase reproductive success and confer biotic and abiotic stress tolerance to its host plant. Since abiotic stress such as, drought, high soil salinity, heat, cold, oxidative stress, heavy metal toxicity is the common adverse environmental conditions that affect and limit crop productivity worldwide. It may be a promising alternative strategy to exploit fungal endophytes to overcome the limitations to crop production brought by abiotic stress. There is increasing interest in developing the potential biotechnological applications of fungal endophytes for improving plant stress tolerance and sustainable production of food crops. Here we have described the fungal symbioses, fungal symbionts and their role in abiotic stress tolerance. A putative mechanism of stress tolerance by symbionts has also been covered.

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