Diversity of fungal endophytes in recent and ancient wheat ancestors Triticum dicoccoides and Aegilops sharonensis

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Abstract

Endophytes have profound impacts on plants, including beneficial effects on agriculturally important traits. We hypothesized that endophytes in wild plants include beneficial endophytes that are absent or underrepresented in domesticated crops. In this work, we studied the structure of endophyte communities in wheat-related grasses, Triticum dicoccoides and Aegilops sharonensis, and compared it to an endophyte community from wheat (T. aeastivum). Endophytes were isolated by cultivation and by cultivation-independent methods. In total, 514 intergenic spacer region sequences from single cultures were analyzed. Categorization at 97% sequence similarity resulted in 67 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) that were evenly distributed between the different plant species. A narrow core community of Alternaria spp. was found in all samples, but each plant species also contained a significant portion of unique endophytes. The cultivation-independent analysis identified a larger number of OTUs than the cultivation method, half of which were singletons or doubletons. For OTUs with a relative abundance >0.5%, similar numbers were obtained by both methods. Collectively, our data show that wild grass relatives of wheat contain a wealth of taxonomically diverse fungal endophytes that are not found in modern wheat, some of which belong to taxa with known beneficial effects.

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