Nutritional niche overlap potentiates the use of endophytes in biocontrol of a tree disease
BioControl 2015, 60(5):655-667

Blumenstein K, Albrectsen BR, Martín JA, Hultberg M, Sieber TN, Helander M, Witzell J

Abstract
Asymptomatic endophytic fungi are often regarded as potent biocontrol agents in plants, but the competitive interactions between endophytes and other microbes within the same host plant are poorly understood. We tested a hypothesis that as compared to asymptomatic endophytes, an aggressive pathogen inhabiting the same host is able to utilize carbon substrates more efficiently. Using phenotype microarray, we determined the carbon utilization profiles of the highly virulent Dutch elm disease (DED) pathogen Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, and four asymptomatic elm (Ulmus spp.) endophyte isolates that were selected based on their differential association to the DED-susceptibility pattern of the host elms. The competitive interactions between isolates were evaluated using a niche overlap index. In contrast to our hypothesis, the studied endophytes exhibited extensive niche overlap with the pathogen, suggesting that some endophyte strains might protect elms against DED-pathogen through competition for substrates and provide new tools for biocontrol of DED.

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