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Consequences of simultaneous interactions of fungal endophytes and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi with a shared host grass


A. L. Larimer, Dept of Biology, Jordan Hall, 1001 East Third Street, Indiana Univ., Bloomington, IN 47405-3700, USA. E-mail:


Plants simultaneously associate with multiple microbial symbionts throughout their lifetimes. To address the question of whether the effects of simultaneous symbionts are contingent on the specific identities, we conducted a greenhouse experiment manipulating the presence and identities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and fungal endophytes on the shared host grass Elymus hystrix. Each plant host was inoculated with one of two AMF species having varying effects on host growth, or a sterile soil control. Further, we used naturally occurring endophyte-infected (E+) and uninfected (E–) individuals from two populations of the endophyte Epichloë elymi that varied in their interaction with E. hystrix. We then measured responses of plants, AMF, and fungal endophytes. Overall, we found that the combined effects of AMF and fungal endophytes on plant growth were additive, reflecting the mutualistic quality of each symbiont independently interacting with host plants. However, fungal endophyte infection differentially altered hyphal colonization of the two AMF species and the identity of the coinfecting AMF species affected fungal endophyte fitness traits. The results of this study demonstrate that the outcome of interspecific symbiotic interactions varies with partner identity such that the effects of simultaneous symbioses can not be generalized.