Metabolomics analysis of the Lolium perenne–Neotyphodium lolii symbiosis: more than just alkaloids?
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- Rasmussen, S., Parsons, A.J. & Newman, J.A. Phytochem Rev (2009) 8: 535. doi:10.1007/s11101-009-9136-6
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Above ground plant parts of Lolium perenne often harbour endophytic Neotyphodium lolii fungi. These occur both naturally and commercially, as variant strains are introduced to modify the grass metabolic profile. They reside in the apoplastic spaces and rarely cause visible symptoms of infection. The vast majority of literature has focussed on the biosynthesis, accumulation, and ecological relevance of a limited number of alkaloids produced by N. lolii which have been shown to negatively affect insect pests and vertebrate herbivores. Much less is known about the effects of other metabolites in these interactions or the role of resource supply on metabolic profiles, nor critically on the metabolic consequences of differences in the amount (concentration) of endophyte present. Here, we provide a synthesis of some of our recently published studies on effects of resource supply (nitrogen, carbohydrates) on concentrations of endophytes and endophyte specific metabolites in the L. perenne–N. lolii association. We present results of both quantitative PCR and targeted metabolomics studies, using contrasting endophyte strains in two perennial ryegrass cultivars. We also present and discuss a hypothetical schematic representation of possible links between plant and fungal metabolic networks. A multiple regression analysis of numerical insect responses and metabolic profiles indicates that effects of endophyte infection on insect population sizes could be predicted by concentrations of a range of metabolites other than alkaloids and depended on insect species, fungal strain, and nitrogen supply.