Genomic and metabolic characterisation of alkaloid biosynthesis by asexual Epichloë fungal endophytes of tall fescue pasture grasses Academic Article uri icon


  • Symbiotic associations between tall fescue grasses and asexual Epichloë fungal endophytes exhibit biosynthesis of alkaloid compounds causing both beneficial and detrimental effects. Candidate novel endophytes with favourable chemotypic profiles have been identified in germplasm collections by screening for genetic diversity, followed by metabolite profile analysis in endogenous genetic backgrounds. A subset of candidates was subjected to genome survey sequencing to detect the presence or absence and structural status of known genes for biosynthesis of the major alkaloid classes. The capacity to produce specific metabolites was directly predictable from metabolic data. In addition, study of duplicated gene structure in heteroploid genomic constitutions provided further evidence for the origin of such endophytes. Selected strains were inoculated into meristem-derived callus cultures from specific tall fescue genotypes to perform isogenic comparisons of alkaloid profile in different host backgrounds, revealing evidence for host-specific quantitative control of metabolite production, consistent with previous studies. Certain strains were capable of both inoculation and formation of longer-term associations with a nonhost species, perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Discovery and primary characterisation of novel endophytes by DNA analysis, followed by confirmatory metabolic studies, offers improvements of speed and efficiency and hence accelerated deployment in pasture grass improvement programs.

publication date

  • 2017

published in