Phylogenomics of fescue grass-derived fungal endophytes based on selected nuclear genes and the mitochondrial gene complement Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Tall fescue and meadow fescue are important as temperate pasture grasses, forming mutualistic associations with asexual Neotyphodium endophytes. The most frequently identified endophyte of Continental allohexaploid tall fescue is Neotyphodium coenophialum, while representatives of two other taxa (FaTG-2 and FaTG-3) have been described as colonising decaploid and Mediterranean hexaploid tall fescue, respectively. In addition, a recent study identified two other putatively novel endophyte taxa from Mediterranean hexaploid and decaploid tall fescue accessions, which were designated as uncharacterised Neotyphodium species (UNS) and FaTG-3-like respectively. In contrast, diploid meadow fescue mainly forms associations with the endophyte taxon Neotyphodium uncinatum, although a second endophyte taxon, termed N. siegelii, has also been described. RESULTS: Multiple copies of the translation elongation factor 1-a (tefA) and β-tubulin (tub2) 'house-keeping' genes, as well as the endophyte-specific perA gene, were identified for each fescue-derived endophyte taxon from whole genome sequence data. The assembled gene sequences were used to reconstruct evolutionary relationships between the heteroploid fescue-derived endophytes and putative ancestral sub-genomes derived from known sexual Epichloë species. In addition to the nuclear genome-derived genes, the complete mitochondrial genome (mt genome) sequence was obtained for each of the sequenced endophyte, and phylogenetic relationships between the mt genome protein coding gene complements were also reconstructed. CONCLUSIONS: Complex and highly reticulated evolutionary relationships between Epichloë-Neotyphodium endophytes have been predicted on the basis of multiple nuclear genes and entire mitochondrial protein-coding gene complements, derived from independent assembly of whole genome sequence reads. The results are consistent with previous studies while also providing novel phylogenetic insights, particularly through inclusion of data from the endophyte lineage-specific gene, as well as affording evidence for the origin of cytoplasmic genomes. In particular, the results obtained from the present study imply the possible occurrence of at least two distinct E. typhina progenitors for heteropoid taxa, as well the ancestral contribution of an endophyte species distinct from (although related to) contemporary E. baconii to the extant hybrid species. Furthermore, the present study confirmed the distinct taxonomic status of the newly identified fescue endophyte taxa, FaTG-3-like and UNS, which are consequently proposed to be renamed FaTG4 and FaTG5, respectively.

publication date

  • 2013