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Influence of fungal endophytes on plant physiology is more pronounced under stress than well-watered conditions: a meta-analysis

  • Khondoker M. G. Dastogeer
Original Article


Main Conclusion

A meta-analysis of published articles shows that the influence of fungal endophytes on plant performance is dependent on plant water status. The magnitude of endophytic effects is higher in plants grown in water-limiting environments than those in adequate watering environments. The outcome of plant–endophyte interactions depends on the identity of the plant host and fungal symbionts.

Water limitation often hinders plant productivity in both natural and agricultural settings. Endophytic fungal symbionts can mediate plant water stress responses by enhancing drought tolerance and avoidance, but these effects have not been quantified across plant–endophyte studies. A meta-analysis of published studies was performed to determine how endophytic fungal symbionts influence plant response under non-stressed versus water-stressed conditions. A significantly positive or neutral overall effect of fungal endophyte was noted under water-stressed conditions. In contrast, under non-stressed conditions, the overall effect of fungi on plants was mostly neutral. In general, the presence of fungal endophytes increased plant’s total biomass, chlorophyll content, and stomatal conductance irrespective of water availability. In addition, plant shoot biomass, tiller density, plant height, maximum quantum yield (Fv/Fm), net photosynthesis, relative water content (RWC), amounts of ascorbate peroxidase (APX), glutathione (GSH), polyphenol oxidase (PPO), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and phenolics were significantly increased by endophyte colonisation under stressed conditions. Malondialdehyde (MDA) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) were reduced in endophytic plants under stress as compared with non-endophytic counterparts. Categorical analysis revealed that accumulation in plant biomass is influenced by factors such as host and fungi identity, the magnitude of which is greater under stressed than non-stressed conditions.


Drought Effect size Fungal endophyte Plant physiology Meta-analysis Symbiosis 



I am thankful to Dr. Stephen J. Wylie, Murdoch University, for his time and valuable suggestions to improve the original draft of the manuscript. The author is also grateful to the reviewer and editor for their comments and valuable suggestions, which significantly improved the manuscript.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Biotechnology Group-Plant Virology and Plant–Microbe Interaction, Western Australian State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, School of Veterinary and Life SciencesMurdoch UniversityPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Plant PathologyBangladesh Agricultural UniversityMymensinghBangladesh

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