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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Serendipita Fungi Modulate the Switchgrass Root Transcriptome to Circumvent Host Defenses and Establish a Symbiotic Relationship.


The fungal family Serendipitaceae encompasses root-associated lineages with endophytic, ericoid, orchid, and ectomycorrhizal lifestyles. Switchgrass is an important bioenergy crop for cellulosic ethanol production owing to high biomass production on marginal soils otherwise unfit for food crop cultivation. The aim of this study was to investigate the host plant responses to Serendipita spp. colonization by characterizing the switchgrass root transcriptome during different stages of symbiosis in vitro. For this, we included a native switchgrass strain, Serendipita bescii, and a related strain, S. vermifera, isolated from Australian orchids. Serendipita colonization progresses from thin hyphae that grow between root cells to, finally, the production of large, bulbous hyphae that fill root cells during the later stages of colonization. We report that switchgrass seems to perceive both fungi prior to physical contact, leading to the activation of chemical and structural defense responses and putative host disease resistance genes. Subsequently, the host defense system appears to be quenched and carbohydrate metabolism adjusted, potentially to accommodate the fungal symbiont. In addition, prior to contact, switchgrass exhibited significant increases in root hair density and root surface area. Furthermore, genes involved in phytohormone metabolism such as gibberellin, jasmonic acid, and salicylic acid were activated during different stages of colonization. Both fungal strains induced plant gene expression in a similar manner, indicating a conserved plant response to members of this fungal order. Understanding plant responsiveness to Serendipita spp. will inform our efforts to integrate them into forages and row crops for optimal plant-microbe functioning, thus facilitating low-input, sustainable agricultural practices.[Formula: see text] Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license.

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