Identification and Isolation of Indicator Fungal Endophytes in Alpine Plants Species



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Alpine plants species grow in harsh environments. As climate change progresses, alpine plants are exposed to an increased amount of abiotic stress. We are interested in the symbiotic relationships that alpine plants develop in these high stress environments. These symbiotic relationships can either be mutualistic or pathogenic. Mutualistic microbes assist in the acquisition of nutrients, while pathogenic microbes can cause disease and leach plant nutrients. Microbes that live within seeds are seed endophytes, which can be passed vertically transmitted from parent to offspring or horizontally transmitted in the environment. We cultured seed endophytes from 9 plant species along an elevational gradient at Nederland, CO. From our survey, we found that plant identity significantly influenced seed endophyte community composition. In fact, some endophytes appeared to be specialists, associating with only one plant species, while others were generalists, associating with many plant species. However, elevation had no effect on endophyte community structure. Now, we are identifying seven of these isolates by sequencing their DNA, and we will test how they influence the germination of four alpine plant species. Literature from other systems show that seed endophytes can benefit overall biomass and promote seed germination. However, further data collection is necessary to document the symbiotic relationship of endophytes and alpine plants. This project was completed with contributions from Cliff Bueno de Mesquita from University of Colorado-Boulder.