Origin, divergence, and phylogeny of asexual Epichloë endophyte in Elymus species from western China.

Research paper by Hui H Song, Zhibiao Z Nan

Indexed on: 15 May '15Published on: 15 May '15Published in: PloS one


Asexual Epichloë species are likely derived directly from sexual Epichloë species that then lost their capacity for sexual reproduction or lost sexual reproduction because of interspecific hybridization between distinct lineages of sexual Epichloë and/or asexual Epichloë species. In this study we isolated asexual Epichloë endophytes from Elymus species in western China and sequenced intron-rich regions in the genes encoding β-tubulin (tubB) and translation elongation factor 1-α (tefA). Our results showed that there are no gene copies of tubB and tefA in any of the isolates. Phylogenetic analysis showed that sequences in this study formed a single clade with asexual Epichloë bromicola from Hordeum brevisubulatum, which implies asexual Epichloë endophytes that are symbionts in a western Chinese Elymus species likely share a common ancestor with asexual E. bromicola from European H. brevisubulatum. In addition, our results revealed that asexual E. bromicola isolates that are symbionts in a western Chinese Elymus species and sexual Epichloë species that are symbionts in a North American Elymus species have a different origin. Further analysis found that Epichloë species likely originated in Eurasia. In addition, the results support the hypothesis that migratory birds or humans might have aided the dispersal of these fungal endophytes to other continents.