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Research Project: Health-Promoting Bioactives and Biobased Pesticides from Medicinal and Herbal Crops

Location: Natural Products Utilization Research

Title: Diversity of the endophytic fungi associated with the ancient and narrowly endemic neotropical plant Vellozia gigantea from the endangered Brazilian rupestrian grasslands

item FERREIRA, MARIANA - Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais
item Cantrell, Charles
item Wedge, David
item GONCALVES, VIVIAN - Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais
item JACOB, MELISSA - University Of Mississippi
item KHAN, SHABANA - University Of Mississippi
item ROSA, CARLOS - Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais
item ROSA, LUIZ - Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais

Submitted to: Biochemical Systematics and Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/11/2017
Publication Date: 2/27/2017
Publication URL:
Citation: Ferreira, M.C., Cantrell, C.L., Wedge, D.E., Goncalves, V.N., Jacob, M., Khan, S., Rosa, C.A., Rosa, L.H. 2017. Diversity of the endophytic fungi associated with the ancient and narrowly endemic neotropical plant Vellozia gigantea from the endangered Brazilian rupestrian grasslands. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 71:163-169.

Interpretive Summary: Endophytic fungi represent those species able to colonize their host plants without causing apparent disease symptoms, living inter- or intracellularly, systemically or locally within their hosts. The endophytic microbes have been studied as symbionts promoting some benefits to their host; however, several endophytic species are also reported as decomposers or parasites. Additionally, endophytic fungi also represent sources of bioactive compounds with a wide range of metabolites with different biological activities. Among the typical biomes from Brazil, the Espinhaço Mountain Range has the Rupestrian Grasslands (“campo rupestre”) that includes valleys, canyons, ranges, and rock outcrops at high elevations shelter different plant species with a high richness of endemism. The diversification of plant lineages present in the Rupestrian Grasslands occurs before the diversification of lowland Brazilian Savanna (“cerrado”), suggesting it may be the most ancient open vegetation in eastern South America; in addition, Brazilian rocky fields comprise more than 5,000 plant species (about 15% of Brazilian plant diversity), in an area corresponding to 0.78% of its surface. Vellozia gigantea represents a recently described new species that is the tallest in the family reaching more than 6 meters and considered to be threatened from extinction. In the present study, we focus on the taxonomy, diversity, community structure, ecology, phylogenetic inferences and bioprospecting of bioactive compounds of endophytic fungal community associated with V. gigantea, an endemic/rare/ancient/endangered plant species that occurs only in the Rupestrian Grasslands in Brazil, as well as their ability to produce antimicrobial and antimalarial compounds.

Technical Abstract: The diversity of cultivable endophytic fungal community associated with the rare, ancient and narrowly endemic Neotropical plant Vellozia gigantea present in the Brazilian Rupestrian Grasslands was assessed. Two hundred and eighty-five fungal isolates obtained were identified into 27 genera and 87 taxa by sequencing different regions of fungal DNA. Nineteen taxa were identified to the genus, family or unknown level, which may represent new species. Xylaria berteri, Diaporthe sp. 1, Nigrospora oryzae, Muscodor sp. 1, Colletotrichum aeshynomenes and Trichoderma viride were the most frequent taxa obtained. The diversity indices displayed high values, showing that V. gigantea shelters a diverse and rich associated mycobiota. Among all taxa identified, 62 (70%) occur as singlets, which included those able to produce antimicrobial and antimalarial compounds. The extract of Diaporthe miriciae UFMGCB 9720 showed the presence of highly functionalized secondary metabolites, which afforded the compound epoxycytochalasin H. Epoxycytochalasin H displayed high antimalarial activity against the chloroquine resistant strain of Plasmodium falciparum with an IC50 of about 3.5-fold lower compared with chloroquine. Our results indicate that V. gigantea shelters in its tissues a high diverse mycobiota, including several rare fungal species not previously reported as endophytes, but reported to possess different ecological functions. The high endophytic diversity found in association with V. gigantea suggests that the Rupestrian Grasslands can be considered a hotspot of unreported or new endophytic species, including those able to produce bioactive compounds.