Evolutionary diversification of fungal endophytes of tall fescue grass by hybridization with Epichloe species

H. F. Tsai, J. S. Liu, C. Staben, M. J. Christensen, G. C.M. Latch, M. R. Siegel, C. L. Schardl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


The mutualistic associations of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) with seed-borne fungal symbionts (endophytes) are important for fitness of the grass host and its survival under biotic and abiotic stress. The tall fescue endophytes are asexual relatives of biological species (mating populations) of genus Epichloe (Clavicipitaceae), sexual fungi that cause grass choke disease. Isozyme studies have suggested considerable genetic diversity among endophytes of tall fescue. Phylogenetic relationships among seven isolates from tall fescue, three from meadow fescue (a probable ancestor of tall fescue), and nine Epichloe isolates from other host species were investigated by comparing sequences of noncoding segments of the β-tubulin (tub2) and rRNA (rrn) genes. Whereas each Epichloe isolate and meadow fescue endophyte had only a single tub2 gene, most tall fescue endophytes had two or three distinct tub2 copies. Phylogenetic analysis of tub2 sequences indicated that the presence of multiple copies in the tall fescue endophytes was a consequence of hybridization with Epichloe species. At least three hybridization events account for the distribution and relationships of tub2 genes. These results suggest that interspecific hybridization is the major cause of genetic diversification of the tall fescue endophytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2542-2546
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1994


  • Acremonium coenophialum
  • Clavicipitaceae
  • Festuca arundinacea
  • mutualistic symbionts
  • β-tubulin genes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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