Title: Plant fungal endophytes – hidden immune systems in plants?

Speaker:  A/Prof John Dearnaley, the University of Southern Queensland

Abstract:  Most plants house endophytic fungi in their root, stem and leaf tissues. These fungi do not elicit obvious signs of pathogenesis in the host although they may be representatives of important disease causing fungal taxa eg. Fusarium, Colletotrichum, Phyllosticta. Fungal endophytes may impact on host physiology and thus influence host fitness, ecology and evolution. Endophytes are divided into four main groups.  Clavicipitaceous endophytes (eg. Epichloe, Balansia spp.) are fungi that colonise the stem and leaf tissues of pasture grasses. These fungi are difficult to study as they are not easily isolated into pure culture. Colonisation usually increases plant biomass, drought tolerance and herbivore resistance (which can be a problem for livestock). Class two endophytes are mostly ascomycete fungi that colonise the roots, stems and leaves of many plant species. Plants with these interactions tend to be dominated by a single species of endophyte. Class two endophytes allow plant colonisation of habitats with extremes of pH, temperature and salinity. Class three endophytes occur mainly in shoot tissues. They are diverse associations of mostly ascomycete fungi but can also include hard to culture basidiomycetes. These endophytes may protect the plant host against pathogens and they are subject to considerable research regarding discovery of potential new antibiotics which will be elaborated here. Class four endophytes occur in the roots of over 600 plant species. These fungi are ascomycetes with darkly pigmented hyphae and are often known as dark septate endophytes.

Bio: A/Prof John Dearnaley is internationally known for his research into the fungal symbionts of native Australian plants and has formally described fifteen new Australian fungal species. He has a PhD from the Australian National University and has had an academic career spanning 28 years including a 2.5-year postdoctoral position in Toronto, Canada. He has authored over 40 scientific publications including two book chapters and an article in the prestigious journal “Science”. He was previously the president of the Australasian Mycological Society (2014-2017) and a representative of the International Mycological Society in this time. His research interests encompass the taxonomy, ecology and economics of Australian fungi. Current projects include the taxonomy and bioactive properties of rainforest endophytes, the taxonomy and pathology of Australian Marasmiaceae and mycorrhizal fungi in agriculture.

About School research seminars

Seminars cover all aspects of chemistry and molecular biosciences and are delivered by visiting national and international academics. PhD completion seminars are also incorporated into the program.

Seminars are usually held in person and occasionally via zoom. All are welcome to attend.  



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