Barge, E.G. et al., 2022. Molecular Ecology

Phylogenetic conservatism of mycoparasitism and its contribution to pathogen antagonism

Edward G. Barge, Devin R. Leopold, Alejandro Rojas, Rytas Vilgalys, and Pose E. Busby
21 March 2022, Molecular Ecology;


Closely related species are expected to have similar functional traits due to shared ancestry and phylogenetic inertia. However, few tests of this hypothesis are available for plant-associated fungal symbionts. Fungal leaf endophytes occur in all land plants and can protect their host plant from disease by a variety of mechanisms, including by parasitizing pathogens (e.g., mycoparasitism). Here, we tested whether phylogenetic relatedness among species of Cladosporium, a widespread genus that includes mycoparasitic species, predicts the effect of this endophyte on the severity of leaf rust disease. First, we used congruence among different marker sequences (i.e., genealogical concordance phylogenetic species recognition criterion) to delimit species of Cladosporium. Next, in a controlled experiment, we quantified both mycoparasitism and disease modification for the selected Cladosporium species. We identified 17 species of Cladosporium; all the species reduced rust disease severity in our experiment. Cladosporium phylogeny was a significant predictor of mycoparasitism. However, we did not observe a phylogenetic effect on disease severity overall, indicating that other mechanism/s operating independently of shared ancestry also contributed to endophyte effects on disease severity. Indeed, a second experiment showed that Cladosporium endophyte exudates (no live organism) from divergent species groups equally reduced disease severity. Our results reveal that multiple mechanisms contribute to the protective effects of an endophyte against a plant pathogen, but not all traits underlying these mechanisms are phylogenetically conserved.


Barge EG, Leopold DR, Rojas A, Vilgalys R, Busby PE. Phylogenetic conservatism of mycoparasitism and its contribution to pathogen antagonism. Mol Ecol. 2022;10.1111/mec.16436. doi:10.1111/mec.16436