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How and why do endophytes produce plant secondary metabolites?

  • Sachin NaikEmail author
  • Ramanan Uma Shaanker
  • Gudasalamani Ravikanth
  • Selvadurai Dayanandan


Despite numerous studies reporting endophytic fungal production of metabolites chemically similar to the secondary metabolites produced by their host plants, how and why the fungi produce these metabolites remain largely unknown. Here, we review the literature on endophytic fungal production of taxol and camptothecin, two extensively studied plant secondary metabolites, and highlight critical gaps in our knowledge that need to be addressed to adequately answer the above questions. We show that detailed studies are required for conclusive demonstration of i) the production of these metabolites by the fungi, ii) the tolerance of the fungi to the produced cytotoxic metabolites, and iii) the adaptive significance of the metabolite production to the fungi. Although our focus is on two widely studied plant secondary metabolites produced by fungi, the questions addressed here are equally applicable to the production of a large number of other fungal metabolites that are similar to those produced by their host plants.


Endophytic fungi Taxol Camptothecin Adaptive significance Biosynthesis 



The work reported here draws on research supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India to Uma Shaanker. Sachin Naik and Selvadurai Dayanandan acknowledge the support from NSERC-Canada Discovery grant, and Uma Shaanker acknowledges Erasmus Mundus Travel Support to Uppsala University, Sweden.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics, Biology DepartmentConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Quebec Centre for Biodiversity SciencesMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of Crop PhysiologyUniversity of Agricultural SciencesBangaloreIndia
  4. 4.Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the EnvironmentBangaloreIndia

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