Microbial Ecology

, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 197–206 | Cite as

Infection with a Shoot-Specific Fungal Endophyte (Epichloë) Alters Tall Fescue Soil Microbial Communities

  • Xavier Rojas
  • Jingqi Guo
  • Jonathan W. Leff
  • David H. McNearJr.
  • Noah Fierer
  • Rebecca L. McCulley
Plant Microbe Interactions


Tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus) is a widespread grass that can form a symbiotic relationship with a shoot-specific fungal endophyte (Epichloë coenophiala). While the effects of fungal endophyte infection on fescue physiology and ecology have been relatively well studied, less attention has been given to how this relationship may impact the soil microbial community. We used high-throughput DNA sequencing and phospholipid fatty acid analysis to determine the structure and biomass of microbial communities in both bulk and rhizosphere soils from tall fescue stands that were either uninfected with E. coenophiala or were infected with the common toxic strain or one of several novel strains of the endophyte. We found that rhizosphere and bulk soils harbored distinct microbial communities. Endophyte presence, regardless of strain, significantly influenced soil fungal communities, but endophyte effects were less pronounced in prokaryotic communities. E. coenophiala presence did not change total fungal biomass but caused a shift in soil and rhizosphere fungal community composition, increasing the relative abundance of taxa within the Glomeromycota phylum and decreasing the relative abundance of genera in the Ascomycota phylum, including Lecanicillium, Volutella, Lipomyces, Pochonia, and Rhizoctonia. Our data suggests that tripartite interactions exist between the shoot endophyte E. coenophiala, tall fescue, and soil fungi that may have important implications for the functioning of soils, such as carbon storage, in fescue-dominated grasslands.


Epichloë coenophiala Mycorrhizae Neotyphodium Plant-microbe interactions Schedonorus arundinaceus Soil microbes 



We thank Joe Kupper, Jim Nelson, and Elizabeth Carlisle for field assistance, and Tim Phillips for allowing us to sample his grazing trial material. This research was supported by grants from the USDA-NRI (Award #’s 2011-67019-30392 and 2008-35107-04504), a cooperative agreement with the USDA-ARS Forage Animal Production Research Unit (58-6440-7-135), and the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station (KY006045).

Supplementary material

248_2016_750_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 Supplemental Table 1: Results of the multifactor ANOVA testing the effect of sample type (bulk vs. rhizosphere soils), tall fescue cultivar (PDF vs. 97TF1), and endophyte status (E-, CTE+, AR542E+, AR584E+) on bacterial biomass (nmol g soil−1), fungal biomass (nmol g soil−1), the ratio of bacterial to fungal biomass, and the amount of 16:1ω5c (nmol g soil−1). Significant effects (P < 0.05) are bolded. Supplemental Table 2: Pair-wise PERMANOVA comparisons of the effect of different endophyte statuses on soil prokaryotic and fungal communities by tall fescue cultivar (PDF vs. 97TF1) and across soil type. Endophyte statuses whose microbial communities strongly differed from each other are bolded (P < 0.01). Supplemental Table 3: Pair-wise PERMANOVA comparisons of the effect of different endophyte statuses on soil prokaryotic and fungal communities by soil type (bulk vs. rhizosphere) and across cultivar. There were no endophyte statuses whose microbial communities strongly (P < 0.01) differed from each other in these comparisons. (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xavier Rojas
    • 1
  • Jingqi Guo
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jonathan W. Leff
    • 1
  • David H. McNearJr.
    • 2
  • Noah Fierer
    • 1
  • Rebecca L. McCulley
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Soil SciencesUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  3. 3.Soil and Crop Nutrient ManagementTexas AgriLife Research and Extension CenterBeaumontUSA
  4. 4.N-222D Ag Science NorthUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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