Both plant genotype and herbivory shape aspen endophyte communities
Oecologia 2018, 187 (2):535-545

Albrectsen BR, Siddique AB, Decker VHG, Unterseher M, Robinson KM

Salicinoid phenolic glycosides are common defence substances in salicaceous trees and specialist leaf beetles use these compounds for their own defence against predators. Salicinoids vary qualitatively and qualitatively in aspen (Populus tremula) and this variation has a genetic basis. The foliar endophyte mycobiome is plentiful and we hypothesised that it is related to plant genotype, potentially mediated by salicinoid composition, and that interactions with the leaf beetle Chrysomela tremula may alter this relationship. We studied these three-way interactions in controlled greenhouse experiments. Endophytic fungi were isolated from sterilised leaf tissues with and without beetle damage, and from beetles. We confirmed that endophyte composition was influenced by host genotype. Beetle activity added generalist morphs to the mycobiome that overrode the initial host association. Yeast-like genera (Cryptococcus and Rhodotorula) were isolated only from beetle-damaged tissues and from beetles, whereas fast-growing filamentous fungi dominated beetle-free control plants. Competition experiments between filamentous fungi of plant origin and beetle-related yeasts suggested interaction of both stimulating and inhibiting modes of action amongst the fungi. As a result, we detected examples of amensalism, commensalism, parasitism and competition between the morphs tested, but we found no evidence of mutualism, and consequently no co-evolutionary relationship could be demonstrated, between yeasts carried by beetles, host genotype and associated filamentous morphs. Endophyte studies are method-dependent and high-throughput sequencing technology best define the fungal mycobiome, culturing however continues to be a cheap way to provide fundamental ecological insights and it is also required for experimental studies.

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