The Science Seminar Series: November 4, 2010
Fungal Endophytes: The “Ad Infinitum” of Plant-Fungal Symbiotic Associations
Dr. Anthony Glenn
USDA, ARS, R.B. Russell Research Center
Toxicology & Mycotoxin Research Unit, Athens, GA
Student Union Theater
Time: 4:00 -5:00pm
Fungi are truly everywhere in our environment. On land, in sea, and in air. Whether it be growing in landscaping mulch, sprouting from our lawns, floating through the air, growing in buildings, or infecting a huge range of organism such as plants, coral, and humans, fungi are around us daily and impact our lives in significant ways, both positively and negatively. Plant pathogenic fungi cause significant damage to crops, costing the US farming industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually. However, not all fungi that infect plants cause disease. Some have adapted to infect and grow within plants without causing disease, and in some cases are actually very beneficial to plants in terms of drought tolerance and resistance to plant pathogenic fungi, herbivorous insects, and even extreme temperatures. This seminar will discuss such “endophytic” fungi in detail, with an emphasis on their basic biology and ecology as well as their production of a wide range of secondary metabolites, many of which are toxic to animals and humans (i.e., mycotoxins). The biological diversity exhibited by endophytic fungi has only recently become an area of intense study and discovery. Nearly every plant species examined has been found to harbor endophytic fungi. This broader appreciation of fungal diversity and host-associations has impacted the scientific community’s estimate of the total number of fungal species (1.5 million) that may exist on the planet. Such diversity has potential utility since fungi are a source for pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals and enzymes, but there is also reason for concern since global movement of fungi can result in new plant disease issues that weren’t previously of concern.