Global changes in asexual epichloë transcriptomes during the early stages, from seed to seedling, of symbiotum establishment
journal contributionposted on 2021-06-22, 23:42 authored by IK Hettiarachchige, CJV Jagt, RC Mann, Tim SawbridgeTim Sawbridge, German SpangenbergGerman Spangenberg, KM Guthridge
Asexual Epichloë fungi are strictly seed-transmitted endophytic symbionts of cool-season grasses and spend their entire life cycle within the host plant. Endophyte infection can confer protective benefits to its host through the production of bioprotective compounds. Inversely, plants provide nourishment and shelter to the resident endophyte in return. Current understanding of the changes in global gene expression of asexual Epichloë endophytes during the early stages of host-endophyte symbiotum is limited. A time-course study using a deep RNA-sequencing approach was performed at six stages of germination, using seeds infected with one of three endophyte strains belonging to different representative taxa. Analysis of the most abundantly expressed endophyte genes identified that most were predicted to have a role in stress and defence responses. The num-ber of differentially expressed genes observed at early time points was greater than those detected at later time points, suggesting an active transcriptional reprogramming of endophytes at the onset of seed germination. Gene ontology enrichment analysis revealed dynamic changes in global gene expression consistent with the developmental processes of symbiotic relationships. Expression of pathway genes for biosynthesis of key secondary metabolites was studied comprehensively and fuzzy clustering identified some unique expression patterns. Furthermore, comparisons of the tran-scriptomes from three endophyte strains in planta identified genes unique to each strain, including genes predicted to be associated with secondary metabolism. Findings from this study highlight the importance of better understanding the unique properties of individual endophyte strains and will serve as an excellent resource for future studies of host-endophyte interactions.