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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Frederick, Maryland » Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #403986

Research Project: Discovery and Development of Microbial-Based Biological Control Agents for Use Against Invasive Weeds in the United States

Location: Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research

Title: Cryptic functional diversity within a grass mycobiome

item NDINGA MUNIANIA, CEDRIC - University Of Minnesota
item WORNSON, NICHOLAS - University Of Minnesota
item Fulcher, Michael
item BORER, ELIZABETH - University Of Minnesota
item SEABLOOM, ERIC - University Of Minnesota
item KINKEL, LINDA - University Of Minnesota
item MAY, GEORGIANA - University Of Minnesota

Submitted to: PLOS ONE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/19/2023
Publication Date: 7/20/2023
Citation: Ndinga Muniania, C., Wornson, N., Fulcher, M.R., Borer, E.T., Seabloom, E.W., Kinkel, L., May, G. 2023. Cryptic functional diversity within a grass mycobiome. PLOS ONE. 18(7): e0287990.

Interpretive Summary: Fungi living within plants can influence plant growth and response to environmental conditions. Understanding plant responses to challenges like climate change and pest pressure requires a clear picture of how these fungi function. In this study, two distinct groups of fungi were discovered growing in an important native prairie grass, big bluestem. These groups coexisted within the same individual plant leaves despite substantial differences in their growth and nutrient use abilities. Patterns found in the evolutionary history of these fungi were used to predict how fungal communities might form and function in plants. This information will help other scientists determine how to best collect fungi from plants, interpret the function of these fungi, and study the forces that drive their evolution.

Technical Abstract: Eukaryotic hosts harbor tremendously diverse microbiomes that affect host fitness and response to environmental challenges. In plant microbiomes, fungal endophytes play a prominent role, but we lack information on the diversity in functional traits affecting their interactions with their host and environment. We used culturing to isolate fungal endophytes associated with the widespread, dominant tallgrass prairie grass Andropogon gerardii and characterized their taxonomic diversity using rDNA barcode sequencing. A randomly chosen subset of fungi representing the diversity of each leaf was then evaluated for their use of different carbon compound resources and growth on those resources. Applying community phylogenetic analyses, we discovered that these fungal endophyte communities are comprised of phylogenetically distinct assemblages of slow- and fast-growing fungi that differ in their use of carbon substrates. Our results demonstrate cryptic functional diversity in carbon resource use and growth in fungal endophyte communities of A. gerardii.