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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Relationship between plant lipid bodies and fungal endophytes

item Osuna-avila, Pedro
item Barrow, Jerry
item Lucero, Mary
item Aaltonen, Ron

Submitted to: Terra Latinoamerica
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/28/2010
Publication Date: 3/1/2012
Publication URL:
Citation: Osuna-Avila, P., Barrow, J.R., Lucero, M.E., Aaltonen, R.E. 2012. Relationship between plant lipid bodies and fungal endophytes. Terra Latinoamerica. 30(1):39-45.

Interpretive Summary: All plants produce oils, which exist within the plant as "lipid bodies" or "oleosomes". Lipid bodies provide energy for the plant. Plant oils harvested for food or fuel are contained within these structures. Plants also host diverse populations of endophytic fungi that often escape detection. Awareness that these fungi are universal components of plants in natural systems is relatively new. This report reviews studies of endophytic fungi in diverse plant species to assess the relationship between fungal endophytes and plant lipid bodies. We reveal the prevalence of lipid bodies on the surface and intercellualr spaces of plant cells, on and within fungal hyphae, and present the need to determine roles endophytes play in producing and regulating plant oil production.

Technical Abstract: Lipid bodies are universal components of plant cells and provide a mobilized carbon source for essential biological processes. Plant oils harvested for food and fuel often reside in these lipid bodies. Plants also host diverse populations of endophytic fungi, which easily escape microscopic detection. This study reviews data from previous surveys of endophyte distribution in native plants to specifically examine the physical association between endophytic fungi and plant lipid bodies. Plant tissues stained with trypan blue and sudan IV prior to differential interference contrast microscopy revealed lipid bodies tightly associated with fungal hyphae and with trypan blue stained fungal networks. The abundance of endophyte-associated lipids in healthy plant tissues suggests endophyte involvement in carbon (oil) metabolism and transport. More research, particularly at the molecular level, is merited to assess the significance of this plant feature which is conserved in grasses and shrubs. Exploring the interfaces where plant cells and endophyte cells exchange organic carbon using modern imaging, molecular and genomic analysis could transform current understanding of plant carbon metabolism.

Last Modified: 10/18/2017
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