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Nutritional niche overlap potentiates the use of endophytes in biocontrol of a tree disease

Abstract

Asymptomatic endophytic fungi are often regarded as potent biocontrol agents in plants, but the competitive interactions between endophytes and other microbes within the same host plant are poorly understood. We tested a hypothesis that as compared to asymptomatic endophytes, an aggressive pathogen inhabiting the same host is able to utilize carbon substrates more efficiently. Using phenotype microarray, we determined the carbon utilization profiles of the highly virulent Dutch elm disease (DED) pathogen Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, and four asymptomatic elm (Ulmus spp.) endophyte isolates that were selected based on their differential association to the DED-susceptibility pattern of the host elms. The competitive interactions between isolates were evaluated using a niche overlap index. In contrast to our hypothesis, the studied endophytes exhibited extensive niche overlap with the pathogen, suggesting that some endophyte strains might protect elms against DED-pathogen through competition for substrates and provide new tools for biocontrol of DED.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council FORMAS (project 2008-1090); Stiftelsen Konsul Faxes Donation, Sweden (projects KF 23 and KF 29); Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Spain, project AGL2009-09289; Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Spain (project CTQ2011-28503-C02-02); the Spanish elm breeding program (Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente; Universidad Politécnica de Madrid); and the Joint Doctoral Program “Forest and Nature for Society”, FONASO. The English language was edited by Sees editing Ltd, North Somerset, UK. The work was carried out as a part of research aiming to elucidate the role of endophytes in Dutch elm disease (DED) complex, initiated by Johanna Witzell and Juan Martín in 2008. An important goal of the research is to identify endophytes with biocontrol potential against DED.

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Correspondence to Kathrin Blumenstein.

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Handling Editor: Choong-Min Ryu.

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Blumenstein, K., Albrectsen, B.R., Martín, J.A. et al. Nutritional niche overlap potentiates the use of endophytes in biocontrol of a tree disease. BioControl 60, 655–667 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10526-015-9668-1

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Keywords

  • Carbon utilization profile
  • Endophytic fungi
  • Dutch elm disease
  • Biocontrol
  • Niche differentiation hypothesis
  • Niche tradeoff