S. Moricca and
Dipartimento di Biotecnologie agrarie, Sezione di Patologia vegetale, Università di Firenze, Piazzale delle Cascine 28, 50144, Firenze, Italy.
Go to article:
Accepted for publication 16 November 2007.
Fungal endophytes that colonize forest trees are widespread, but they are less well known than endophytes infecting grasses. The few studies on endophytes in trees mainly concern the tropical areas and the northernmost latitudes, while similar investigations in the Mediterranean region have so far been scarce and incidental. Endophytes are studied mostly in economically important forests suffering from diseases, such as oak forests. One common endophyte that has received some study on oak is the mitosporic Discula quercina. This paper, after first addressing some basic problems on tree endophytes, examines the ecology of D. quercina in Mediterranean oak stands. D. quercina is usually viewed as a symptomless colonizer of healthy Quercus cerris, infecting new leaves early in the growing season, in an unstable equilibrium between transient mutualism/neutralism and latent pathogenesis. It is postulated here that climatic factors can change the endophytic nature of D. quercina, turning it into a weak pathogen or an opportunistic invader of senescing and indeed healthy trees. It is argued more generally that stochastic events can cause the lifestyle of an endophyte to switch from beneficial/neutral to pathogenic, transforming the tree--endophyte interaction, an interaction that depends in part on the matching genomes of the tree and endophyte, and on the environmental context.
Additional keywords:symbiosis, parasitism, fitness, drought, conflict of interest.
© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society