The epichloae: Alkaloid diversity and roles in symbiosis with grasses

Christopher L. Schardl, Simona Florea, Juan Pan, Padmaja Nagabhyru, Sladana Bec, Patrick J. Calie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Epichloae (Epichloë and Neotyphodium species; Clavicipitaceae) are fungi that live in systemic symbioses with cool-season grasses, and many produce alkaloids that are deterrent or toxic to herbivores. The epichloae colonize much of the aerial plant tissues, and most benignly colonize host seeds to transmit vertically. Of their four chemical classes of alkaloids, the ergot alkaloids and indole-diterpenes are active against mammals and insects, whereas peramine and lolines specifically affect insects. Comparative genomic analysis of Clavicipitaceae reveals a distinctive feature of the epichloae, namely, large repeat blocks in their alkaloid biosynthesis gene loci. Such repeat blocks can facilitate gene losses, mutations, and duplications, thus enhancing diversity of alkaloid structures within each class. We suggest that alkaloid diversification is selected especially in the vertically transmissible epichloae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-488
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Plant Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work by the authors was supported by USDA-NIFA grant 2012-67013-19384 , USDA-CSREES grant 2010-34457-21269 ; National Institutes of Health grants R01GM086888 and 2 P20 RR-16481 . Genome sequence analysis was conducted in the University of Kentucky Advanced Genetic Technologies Center. This is publication number 13-12-069 of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, published with approval of the director.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The epichloae: Alkaloid diversity and roles in symbiosis with grasses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this