New Scientist has an article entitled “Fungus-powered superplants may beat the heat” on how endophytic fungi from thermotollerant grass – Dichanthelium lanuginosum – can be used to improved drought-, salt-, and cold- tolerance of many other plants including rice. This symbiosis of the endophyte and grass also has additional player in the form of a mycovirus that infects the fungus which we’ve talked about before. The article doesn’t seem to reference any recently published papers but mainly the ongoing work for field trials and the application of these endophytes to speed the adaptations of the plants.
This complicated partnership is a fascinating example of the complex strategies that have evolved among these organisms as part of colonization of new niches. It is also quite likely, they are along for the ride in most plant systems and we are just now beginning to see their diversity and function.
I’m including a recapping as many of the talks as I remember. There were 6 concurrent sessions each afternoon so you have to miss a lot of talks. The conference was bursting at the seams as it was- at least 140 people had to be turned away beyond the 750 who attended.
If there was any theme in the conference it was “Hey we are all using these genome sequences we’ve been talking about getting”. I only found the overview talks that solely describe the genome solely a little dry as compared to those more focused on particular questions. I guess my genome palate is becoming refined.
Ants, fungi, and bacteria
I have to admit that I am fascinated by co-evolution of symbiotic and mutalistic systems. A review by Richard Robinson gives an overview. A great example is the mutalism between ants and fungi where the ants cultivate the fungi for food. There are more layers to the relationship as a fungal parasite (Escovopsis) attacks the cultivated fungi, and a bacteria. Several researchers have studied the coevolution of these studies including Ulrich Mueller and Cameron Currie. Currie and Mueller have published several great studies describing the patterns of coevolution and the nature of the cooperation.