Epichloë festucae and related mutualistic symbionts of grasses

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165 Scopus citations


Epichloë and Neotyphodium species (Ascomycota) are mutualistic symbionts (endophytes) of temperate grasses, to which they impart numerous and profound fitness benefits. Epichloë festucae, a common symbiont of Festuca, Lolium, and Koeleria spp., is a model for endophyte research that is amenable to Mendelian and molecular genetic analysis. Characteristics of E. festucae include: (i) production of the anti-insect alkaloids peramine and lolines, (ii) production of the anti-vertebrate alkaloids lolitrem B and ergovaline, (iii) efficient vertical transmission via host seeds, (iv) a mildly pathogenic state associated with the E. festucae sexual cycle, and (v) a clear role in enhancing survival of host plants. Genetic analysis of alkaloid production has recently begun. Also, physiological and ultrastructural studies suggest that signals communicated between E. festucae and host plants ensure an exquisitely balanced interaction to the mutual benefit of both partners. Several mutualistic Neotyphodium species are hybrids between E. festucae and other endophyte species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-82
Number of pages14
JournalFungal Genetics and Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank Adrian Leuchtmann, Michael J. Christensen, and Kenneth Hignight for communicating unpublished findings. I also thank A. Leuchtmann and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. Relevant studies in the author’s laboratory have been funded by the National Science Foundation (DEB-9707427 and IBN-9808554) and the United States Department of Agriculture (NRICGP 98-35303-6663). This is contribution number 01-12-53 of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, published with approval of the Director.


  • Alkaloids
  • Biological protection
  • Endophytes
  • Epichloë
  • Evolution
  • Interspecific hybridization
  • Livestock toxicosis
  • Neotyphodium
  • Secondary metabolism
  • Seedborne fungi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Genetics


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