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Endophytic fungi promote plant growth and mitigate the adverse effects of stem rot: an example of Penicillium citrinum and Aspergillus terreus

Waqas, Muhammad, Khan, Abdul Latif, Hamayun, Muhammad, Shahzad, Raheem, Kang, Sang-Mo, Kim, Jong-Guk, Lee, In-Jung
Journal of plant interactions 2015 v.10 no.1 pp. 280-287
Aspergillus terreus, Athelia rolfsii, Helianthus annuus, Penicillium citrinum, adverse effects, agricultural industry, biotic stress, chlorophyll, disease incidence, disease resistance, disease severity, endophytes, fungi, fungicides, host plants, jasmonic acid, photosynthesis, plant growth, salicylic acid, stem rot, stomatal conductance, symbiosis
Disease resistance is a highly desirable crop trait in the sustainable agricultural industry. Endophytic fungi with gibberellins-secreting potential are now widely known for their ability to stimulate plant growth, but their role in promoting disease resistance in plants has rarely been reported. We have studied the role of Penicillium citrinum LWL4 and Aspergillus terreus LWL5 in time-dependent manner on sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) growth, disease resistance and their capacity for the regulation of hormone signaling networks involved in plant defense against the stem rot caused by Sclerotium rolfsii for 3, 6 and 12 days after treatment (DAT). Our results show that plant growth characteristics (i.e. shoot length, shoot diameter, shoot fresh/dry weight, transpiration, stomatal conductance, photosynthesis and chlorophyll content) were promoted in fungi-treated plants with or without the disease caused by Sclerotium rolfsii as compared to their respective controls in 3, 6 and 12 DAT. The negative impacts of stem rot in endophyte-treated diseased plants were greatly reduced in comparison to control diseased plants shown by low disease severity in 3, 6 and 12 DAT. Similarly, fungal endophytes in diseased plants relieved the biotic stress in time-dependent manner (3, 6 and 12 DAT) as shown by low level of endogenous salicylic acid and jasmonic acid contents and were significantly higher in control diseased plants. Furthermore, we observed that the Penicillium citrinum LWL4 association had a greater positive effect on sunflower plants than Aspergillus terreus LWL5. It was concluded that inoculation with fungal endophytes reprogramed plant growth during disease incidence by regulating responses associated with host plant defense. Management strategies involving endophytic symbiosis can help achieve sustainability in agriculture in an eco-friendly manner by reducing excessive fungicide use.